Joni Ernst on Book ‘Daughter of the Heartland’: Embrace Iowa ‘Grit’ to Help Nation

Joni Ernst, Daughter of the Heartland Book Cover
Drew Angerer/Getty Images, Simon and Schuster

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) spoke with Breitbart News Daily on Wednesday about her new book and how her “gritty” upbringing on a rural Iowa farm translated to her movement to cut waste in the Senate.

Breitbart News Daily host Alex Marlow interviewed Ernst about her new book, Daughter of the Heartland, My Ode to the Country that Raised Me. Ernst’s book details her life, from growing up on a small rural Iowa farm, her military service, to her time in the U.S. Senate.

Ernst noted that growing up on a rural farm, complete with “all of those great Iowa values” such as hard work, helped carry her through “very difficult times.” She said that five fundamental values exemplified her life: home, service, commitment, leadership, and grit.

She said that growing up and working on a farm was “very labor-intensive” and that “you were learning” about the “circle of life” at a “very young age.”

Ernst said that her father taught her that “there is no job that is beneath you,” she emphasized.

Ernst famously touted her experience castrating hogs on an Iowa farm to underscore how emphatic she would be about cutting pork-barrel spending in the U.S. Senate during her 2014 Senate campaign.

Ernst said that the job is “Very gritty, it’s very dirty, it’s very disgusting, but those are all things that you grow up doing on a farm.”

Ernst, a survivor of sexual assault, said that event inspired her to help others by volunteering with a sexual assault hotline. 

“Whether it’s sexual assault, whether it’s domestic violence, whatever the situation is, we can be resilient, we can rise above, and we can define the lives on how we set the tone. We don’t let that singular event define who we are as people,” she explained.

The Iowa senator said that living on a collective farm in the Soviet Union through a college student exchange program inspired her to join the military. Ernst spent decades in serving.

“I just knew that I needed to give back to my country in some way,” she said.

Ernst said that growing up on a farm and Iowa’s work ethic led her to move to cut out government waste.

Ernst, one of the Senate’s government waste hawks, reintroduced the Strategic Withdrawal of Agencies for Meaningful Placement (SWAMP) Act in 2019. The legislation would move federal agency headquarters over geographically diverse areas of the nation so that they could focus on helping Americans most impacted by their decisions. Nearly all federal agencies are headquartered in or around Washington, DC.

Ernst said that the government should move agencies to “areas that they represent. Yet when I look out to the window of my office at my Senate office in D.C. I don’t see a single farm, I don’t see a single farmer except if you’re counting Chuck Grassley.”

She asked rhetorically, “Why do we headquarter everything in Washington, D.C.? There is no reason to have all of those facilities; it would save a lot of dollars if we could move that USDA [Agriculture Department] headquarters out into Iowa or Nebraska or Kansas to be closer to the people that they’re working with. So, a lot of great ideas out there, and many of them are common sense.”

Ernst argued that cutting government waste can amount to significant fiscal savings over the long term.

Ernst said, “When we’re trying to save $2 million, I get the pushback, ‘Well, it’s only $2 million, you know, what’s the point of saving it, it’s just a drop in the bucket.’ Well, for heaven’s sake, $2 million is a lot of money.”

“I would remind them it’s all of those drops in the bucket that equal the bucket,” she added.

The Iowa conservative said that it “goes back to my upbringing in Iowa. We may not have had a lot, but we made do.”

“If we could do more of that in D.C., we’d be much better off as a nation,” she added.

Read Sen. Joni Ernst’s book, Daughter of the Heartland: My Ode to the Country that Raised Me, here.

Breitbart News Daily airs on SiriusXM Patriot 125 from 6:00 A.M. to 9:00 A.M. Eastern.

Sean Moran is a congressional reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @SeanMoran3.

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