Finkenauer Introduces Bill to Protect Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area

January 30, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer (IA-01) announced the Protecting the Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area Act. The legislation would make sure that this area is preserved for years to come by eliminating the federal funding cap and sunset provision for the national heritage area.

“Iowa has one of the richest traditions of agriculture and hard work in the country,” Congresswoman Finkenauer said. “Whether it’s the farms, museums, or our historic sites – the Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area is so important to all generations of Iowans. I’ve been happy to see some of the important work they’ve done to preserve our heritage, firsthand. We have to preserve our history and pass it onto younger Iowans to see it firsthand so they will be inspired to carry on our state’s great agricultural traditions.

Under current law, Silos & Smokestacks’ federal funding ends after 2021 and has a total federal funding limit of $15 million. Without a change to the law, Silos and Smokestacks would exist in name only.

The Protecting the Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area Act would:

  • Remove the federal funding cap for the Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area;
  • Eliminate the sunset provision for the Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area;
  • Ensure that the area is formally named and recognized across federal statute as the Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area.


Support for the Protecting the Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area Act

Cara Miller, Executive Director of Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area, said, “Silos & Smokestacks has a 25 year history as a successful national heritage area.  We partner with many sites and communities across our region to tell and preserve the story of American agriculture.  Having this legislation would eliminate our need to take time away from our mission every few years to focus on making sure our existence can continue.  With this legislation we will be able to move forth knowing that for the future we can focus solely on our mission and the development of partnerships to preserve the agriculture story.”

Kurt Strand, President and CEO National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium, said, “We strongly support Representative Finkenauer’s legislation supporting the Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area (SSNHA). Continued federal funding is crucial to SSNHA’s mission and its ability to support 120 partner sites across the region. Sites like ours contribute to job growth, tourism, vibrant communities, and a vital economy.  Our museums alone contribute $10.5 million annually in local tourism dollars. Each partner site, whether large or small, is contributing to its community and the overall economic health of the region.”

Jordan Hansen, of Hansen’s Dairy, said, “Hansen's Dairy is an Iowa Heritage Farm, and it's been in the Hansen family for over 150 years. Our farm has been involved with Silos & Smokestacks for several years, and we commend them for the job they do to promote and preserve Iowa's rich agricultural heritage. They promote our tours through word-of-mouth and electronic and social media. They have funded a marketing intern for our farm to improve our tourism business. They host workshops, webinars and conferences to help sites like ours improve the way they tell their story to the public. Being a part of this organization has also connected us with other similar sites so we can learn from each other. To us, Silos & Smokestacks is an invaluable organization. Iowa farmers feed America and the world. We must support those who are working to tell the stories of farms like ours.” 

Cindy Goodner, Development Officer of Seed Savers Exchange, said, “The Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area program has been extremely important not only to Seed Savers Exchange but to over 100 partner sites in Northeast Iowa—boosting tourism, strengthening the local economy, and empowering partner sites to interpret the stories of our agricultural heritage. With the rapid pace of change in agriculture over the last century, specifically in our home state of Iowa, the proposed legislation by Rep. Finkenauer is more important now than ever to carry forward the mission of the Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area to help capture the story of our agricultural heritage.”

Jon Childers, Executive Director of the Amana Heritage Society, said, “As an early partner site, the Amana Heritage Society (AHS) has benefited tremendously over the years from grants won through the Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area. SSNHA grant dollars have supported vital interpretation of Amana’s story of its Community & Commerce, an Environmental History Tour, and History in Motion. And while past grant projects have been vital to our mission as a partner site, we realize future finding is essential to continue growth.”


Background on the Silos & Smokestack National Heritage Area

The Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area (SSNHA) is one of 49 federally designated heritage areas in the nation and is an affiliated area of the National Park Service. National Heritage Areas are places where historic, cultural, and natural resources combine to form cohesive, nationally important landscapes. National Heritage Areas collaborate with communities to determine how to preserve and share heritage relevant to local needs.

Stretching from Des Moines to Davenport and Mason City to Waukon, Silos & Smokestacks is a 37-county region in Northeast Iowa, covering over 20,000 square miles. Silos & Smokestacks partners with 120 local historic and agricultural sites and allows visitors to experience farm life, agribusiness, and rural communities, past and present, in a variety of ways. An estimated 3.1 million people visit the heritage area each year. The area is a vital driver in the rural economy of Northeast Iowa, contributing $309 million annually to the economy and supporting over 7,000 jobs. Silos & Smokestacks provides substantial return on federal investment by driving over $80 million in federal, state, and local tax revenue.