Iowa Farm Bureau: Voice of Hypocrisy and Big Business

(The facts about the Farm Bureau should be more widely known. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

(*Cross-Posted from Op-Ed by Mike Delaney, President of Citizens for a Healthy Iowa)

As the new year approaches, many of us resolve to better align our actions with our best selves, by supporting organizations that help to build healthier families and stronger communities, and seeking to make our world a better place. This week, against this backdrop, the Iowa Farm Bureau (IFB) hosts its annual convention in Des Moines.

(for the full report and background go to

Possessing a strong brand with high name recognition, and unparalleled political influence, the IFB would have you believe that they represent all that is good about our state. Yet while many people view the organization favorably, very few are aware of its extreme right-wing political views and its business entanglements. In reality, the IFB is focused on extracting as much profit as possible via sales of insurance and other financial products. The organization lobbies heavily to increase government subsidies of destructive farming practices while opposing sensible protections for our air and water. And it uses high-dollar influence peddling to shape a right-wing agenda that is at odds with what makes Iowa a great place to live, work and raise a family.

While technically a nonprofit organization, the Farm Bureau has deep ties to several lucrative insurance companies. The IFB owns a 64 percent share of FBL Financial, a massive for-profit insurance company with assets of almost $8.5 billion. Its structure and finances bear little resemblance to most nonprofit organizations, and it essentially operates as a large insurance company, but with nonprofit status.

The organization earns most of its income not from membership dues or publications, but from its investments in insurance companies. These insurance companies invest tens of millions of dollars in large agribusiness conglomerates, so it’s no surprise that the Farm Bureau’s agriculture policies benefit large agribusiness interests much more than family farmers.

Like its national counterpart, the Iowa Farm Bureau has tremendous financial clout and uses its financial resources to influence the political process. IFB employs six lobbyists in Des Moines, and over the last four years its PACs have contributed over $550,000 to political candidates in Iowa, giving almost eight times as much to Republican candidates as to Democratic ones. The divergence between the IFB’s right-wing agenda and mainstream Iowa values is clearly illustrated by its approach to water quality issues. In a state where nutrient runoff and factory farm manure pose serious threats to our waterways, the IFB opposes sensible protections to clean up our rivers, lakes and streams, and endorsed Sen.-elect Joni Ernst, who supports repealing the Clean Water Act. Its views on a range of controversial political issues are far outside the mainstream, and promote an agenda that often benefits its insurance business interests at the expense of ordinary Iowans.

The Farm Bureau suggests that agriculture should be exempt from most regulations, that voluntary measures are always preferable to standards or mandates with the force of law, and that any regulatory authority should rest with states and localities, rather than the federal government. Its past support for repealing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and current support for voter ID laws that disenfranchise poor and minority voters, illustrate an organization intent on depriving certain Americans of their constitutional rights. The Farm Bureau also wants to make it easier for polluters to break the law and get away with it, by deleting provisions from environmental statutes allowing citizens to sue the government to force compliance with the law.

The Farm Bureau’s policy positions demonstrate a strong belief in the privatization of profit and the socialization of risk. In its view, agriculture and other industries should be incentivized or otherwise compensated by taxpayers when providing benefits to the public, but should not be penalized when imposing costs on the public through pollution or other negative externalities. This ideology is the epitome of a “heads I win, tails you lose” approach to public policy on behalf of large, powerful and profitable companies, at the expense of ordinary citizens, family farmers, public health, and environmental protection.

The Farm Bureau’s advocacy has been very good to the bottom lines of insurance companies, agribusiness conglomerates, and the electoral prospects of conservative Republicans, but has helped make Iowa a more polluted, less healthy place to live. As we contemplate the new year ahead, let us resolve to see the IFB’s advocacy for corporate polluters for what it is, and take concrete actions to clean up our rivers, lakes and streams over its opposition. That would be a New Year’s resolution worth keeping.

Mike Delaney, President
Citizens for a Healthy Iowa 

(for the full report and background go to 

  • good editorial

    I'll move this to the front page later today. Many farmers are not well-served by the Farm Bureau's advocacy either. If we ignore threats to our soil health, our agricultural economy will eventually be in a world of hurt.

  • opposing thought

    Although it is obvious that the IFB's agenda does help large farmers more than small farms, there are many regulations that farms should be exempt from (like the CWA). The majority of farmers would be hurt from more government regulations. Most farmers are proper stewards of the land and when land costs as much as it does they all do their best to prevent erosion and improve soil health. As JFK said "The farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything at retail, sells everything at wholesale, and pays the freight both ways." I'd rather help the large farms more than they need the governments help and in return help the average farmer than say just because the Farm Bill etc helps large producers more it is bad. Which is what many legislatures who are out of touch with the ag industry have done.

    -democratic agronomy major

    • why exempt?

      Saying farmers should be exempt from clean water laws is a bit like saying factories should be exempt from clean air laws.  

      If farmers "do their best" already, why will they be harmed by more government regulations?  Maybe their best is not good enough.

      The rest of America will benefit if the water is cleaner.

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