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banner Friday, 7 January, 2000, 17:49 GMT
Iowa

Iowa holds the first caucus in the presidential selection process, but it if it was not for this, the state would not attract much political attention.

Key facts
Population: 2,851,792 (ranked 30 among states)
Governor: Tom Vilsack (D)
Electoral College votes: 7
It is the USA's most agricultural state with just 1.7m voters. The caucus has a low turnout and is dominated by groups trying to draw attention to local issues such as farming and ethanol subsidies. Iowa, generally Democratic, mainly stands out as representing rural, small town, middle America.

1998 Congress
House of Representatives: 1 Democrat, 4 Republicans
Senate: 1 Democrat, 1 Republican
The landscape is characterised by endless fields of corn and more than 100,000 farms. It is the biggest producer of pork, beef, corn, soybean and grain in the USA.

Iowa is very protective of its federal subsidies for ethanol - a product derived from farmers' grain. Aspiring presidential candidates are forced to support the subsidies or else lose vital support in the caucuses.

The state resisted heavy industry for most of the 20th century, failing to keep pace with the rest of the country and clinging to the hope of agricultural protectionism.

Voting record
1996: Clinton 50%, Dole 40%
1992: Clinton 43%, Bush 37%, Perot 19%
1988: Dukakis 55%, Bush 44%
Iowa suffered badly in the 1980s as farm prices and land values tumbled, and 7% of the population moved away.

But the economy picked up in the 1990s, with more diversity of jobs. Today Iowa is experiencing high-tech growth and one of the USA's lowest unemployment rates.

In education Iowa has had the highest SAT and ACT results in the nation for the past 20 years while the state capital Des Moines is the world's third largest insurance centre.

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