I’m a very proud member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. My wife and I bought acreage 21 years ago in rural Hardin County, with the intentions of running a family farm. What a better place to start and raise a family? Clean fresh air, cool water from the tap, the fresh linens being hung out to dry on the clothes line and, yes, privacy.
Well, that dream came to a screeching halt about seven years ago, when a company I worked for at the time – Summit Farms, owned by Bruce Rastetter – decided to build a 2,500-head, cattle-feeding factory farm just spitting distance from my bedroom window.
I argued at the time that I didn’t want this type of facility next to my home. Being an employee, I expressed my concerns over the close distance to nearby neighbors, along with the fly, air and water issues that this type of concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) creates, and that the rural roads weren’t built to sustain that type of traffic and abuse from factory-farm semi trailer trucks.
Summit Farms execs pulled me into their office, and assured me that everything would be fine. I told them that just because I worked for them, I was not just going to roll over and play dead. The more I spoke out, the more they decided they didn’t need my help. I was terminated.
Factory farms and CAFOs, like the ones Summit Farms was building, are not the type of industry Iowa needs. And seeing the corruption going on, the more and more frustrated I got – I couldn’t sit back and take it anymore. So I decided to stand up with my allies in the community and fight back!
Last November, I ran for Hardin County Supervisor, with help from the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund. We rode in the parades, attended every pancake breakfast and got to know the people. I had many people applaud when they heard our ideas, and support what we were doing!
But I also got to know what Big Ag does when they consider you a threat. A group called Citizens for Truth – a front for corporate agribusiness interests – published and sent out a smear campaign about me to nearly every resident of Hardin County. Their postcards tried to portray me as a criminal, with a mug shot of me from a protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline I had attended in 2016.
I ended up with just short of 2,500 votes. I lost, but this still means 2,500 people in Hardin County listened to, and believed in, our message that you can stand up to the factory farm industry and rebuild our rural communities. And this sets the stage for future candidates to run progressive campaigns for local office in rural Iowa, to put people and planet first!
That’s why I’m supporting the Green New Deal. Factory farms and corporate agribusiness are bad for our planet, bad for our climate, bad for farmers, bad for rural communities, bad for all of all of us!
The best thing we can do for the environment is bring independent family farmers back onto the land. To do this, we need to break up Big Ag and ensure farmers get a fair price for what they grow. Just like workers need a fair wage, independent family farmers need a fair price to make a decent living.
While Corporate Ag monopolies leak billions of gallons of untreated animal waste into our water, independent livestock farmers can actually use practices that capture carbon from the air and raise animals that aren’t raised on factory farms but sustainably on the land. And if we bring more independent family farmers back to the land, that means the agricultural economy can actually be shared in rural communities, instead of all of our wealth being extracted to Wall Street.
Fair prices for independent family farmers would change our whole food and farm system, and break up Corporate Ag’s stranglehold on our communities and our politics. The only way to make such a big change is with a policy that is big enough and bold enough to meet the challenge we’re facing.
I believe the Green New Deal is what we need to change our environment and economy to put people and planet first. That’s why I’m standing with Iowa CCI and the young people of the Sunrise Movement to fight for the Green New Deal.
This Monday, Earth Day, I’ll stand up to share my story at the Green New Deal tour stop in Des Moines, Iowa. There will be people like me from rural areas, as well as indigenous people, and youth leaders. We’ll stand up together and challenge everyone to join us as we demand a better future.
We know we can’t count on politicians to make change for us – we have to organize a movement of people to demand massive changes. We need to stand up and fight for a Green New that will protect the planet, create tens of thousands of new independent, sustainable family farms, and rebuild rural communities in Iowa and across the country. Let’s win a Green New Deal now!