Storm Lake, IA—Today, farmers and ranchers from across the country gathered in the Storm Lake High School Gymnasium to call on politicians in Washington, D.C. and statehouses across the country to get to work revitalizing our rural communities. They were joined by Senator Elizabeth Warren, 2018 Iowa 4th Congressional district candidate JD Scholten, and a video message from Senator Cory Booker. Farm Action Fund hosted the rally with sponsorship from Working Hero Action, Regeneration International, and Organization for Competitive Markets
The rally kicked off with a special video message from Farm Aid President Willie Nelson. Attendees heard from farmers representing The National Black Farmers Association, National Farmers Union, National Family Farm Coalition, Association of American Indian Farmers and more about the struggles farmers, small businesses, and rural communities are facing every day.
Wes Shoemyer, Missouri farmer and Farm Action Fund board member, moderated the event. “Family farmers and rural communities are fed up with multinational corporations extracting our wealth and squeezing out opportunity in rural America,” Shoemyer said. “That is why we are calling on policymakers to support reforms guided by Farm Action Fund’s Farmers Bill of Rights.”
The drastic economic concentration in farm and food markets was a major theme of the event. “America has a monopoly problem, and we need to hit the pause button on agriculture acquisitions and mergers,” said Chris Petersen, Iowa hog farmer. “That is why we need Congress to pass the Merger Moratorium Bill.”
Sarah Lloyd, a Wisconsin Farmers Union member, also shined a light on the dairy crisis. “My husband and I are dairy farming with his family, and things are becoming increasingly desperate,” she said. “We are told that we just need to tighten our belts and be better business people. It is convenient for agribusiness to try to make farmers think that this is their individual problem. We’re done with that way of thinking. We are coming together with other farmers to demand a Farmer Bill of Rights for all.”
Farmers also highlight the need to protect our natural resources, feed our communities, and restore opportunities for young farmers and small businesses. “We believe in a Farmers’ Bill of Rights because we know that Family farmers, ranchers, and fisher-folk will succeed when they have equitable access to resources and open markets not controlled by multi-national corporate interests” said Jim Goodman, president of the National Family Farm Coalition.
The frustration felt by family farmers is resonating with Democrat Presidential hopefuls as well. Senator Elizabeth Warren spoke for nearly 10 minutes about her plans to address consolidation. “I’m proud to stand with Farm Action Fund and their Farmers Bill of Rights,” she said.
Senator Cory Booker, in his recorded video message, said: “I have been inspired by your work and informed by your advocacy and stand with you in the commitment to family farmers and ranchers.”
2018 Iowa 4th Congressional Candidate JD Scholten concluded the rally with a powerful declaration: “Farmers deserve to have their voices be heard and have a seat at the table when their livelihoods are on the line.” Rally speakers and supporters also attended the Heartland Forum to ask questions and listen to Democratic Presidential candidates discuss their ideas for revitalizing rural America.