Chris Peterson is a family farmer who lives near Clear Lake (Cerro Gordo County).
When most people think of small businesses, they imagine a brick and mortar store on Main Street that offers retail or restaurant services. Most would not think of the work worn hands of a person caring for Berkshire hogs on a small farm. But that’s exactly what family farms are: a small business.
Farming is the only thing I’ve ever known - it’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. I’m a third generation American farmer and I had my first pigs when I was a sophomore in high school.
I love farming, and like any other small business, farming comes with its challenges. There were times when I had to go without health care because we simply couldn’t afford it. That’s a dangerous way to live when both my wife and I have health concerns requiring medical attention. That’s part of the reason I worked so hard to support the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It is a lifesaver for people like us.
Over the past decade Republicans have tried again and again to repeal the ACA. I can’t help but worry that if they get control of Congress, they’ll come after my health care and make preexisting conditions a death sentence for folks like me. We need more elected representatives like Senator John McCain who put the needs of everyday Americans over party politics when he voted against the last Republican repeal effort.
But it isn’t just health care that’s a challenge for farmers, it's the way the system is rigged to favor corporate farms and monopolies over family farmers like myself. Big companies are pushing out little guys like me and ruining our rural way of life. I’ve seen it here in Clear Lake, and I’ve seen it across Iowa.
Today, four main conglomerates control the meat industry, and they control 66 percent of the pork industry. While families are seeing rising prices at the grocery store and corporations are seeing record profits, it’s the little guys like me who are getting squeezed out of any earnings. I hear a lot of talk from politicians in Washington about inflation and meat monopolies, but so far, all they’ve done is talk.
Politicians like U.S. Representative Ashley Hinson talk about fighting for rural Iowans and our way of life. But, so far, I haven’t seen it. In fact, she says she supports making the Tax Cuts Jobs Act permanent, another gift to the fat cat CEOs and ultra-wealthy.
If Hinson wants to support rural Iowans and our way of life, she needs to realize we’re working our tails off to keep going. We really don’t want to worry about our representative in DC trying to take away our health care and push family farmers like me out of business in favor of corporate interests.
When you think about small businesses, remember that farmers like me are small business owners. We work hard to provide food for our communities and our nation, and we deserve to have our members of Congress working for us.
Competition and Consumer Choice
I hear you. As a candidate for the office of Secretary of Agriculture, I’d like to develop new strategies to build competition and more consumer choice into the food marketplace.
When we overly rely on commodity production and allow vertical integration of livestock production, it’s little wonder most farm operators find themselves on a treadmill. You’re “price takers.” You don’t control pricing.
With new market development servicing the 3.2 million food and food product consumers in this state, and another 80 million within a day’s drive, I think he opportunity is there if we are focused and use teamwork.
Some of the $1.5 billion in average federal funds we receive each year should be used to rebuild the missing resiliency and diversity that is missing from our landscape.
If we can create a rural Iowa where the next generation wants to live, then we will be on the right track. Thank you for sharing your story. For more information about my campaign, visit www.norwood4iowa.com.
Unfortunately, the term "family farm" is confusing in 2022...
...in the sense that I've heard it applied to (1) a couple and their teenage children who raise flowers and veggies on a few acres for local customers and the local farmer's market, (2) a few middle-aged siblings who collectively own a few thousand mostly-rowcropped acres and have earned the sorry local reputation of never doing any conservation beyond the inadequate minimum needed to qualify for Farm Bill benefits, and (3) a family with three CAFOs that were built years ago and have tormented the neighbors who were already living there with horrible smells ever since.
I have some knowledge and opinions about the kinds of farming operations that I'd like my personal and tax money to support. Unfortunately, the term "family farm" is, at this point, of little help.