Iowa farmers questioned a Democratic congressional candidate’s support for agriculture after she endorsed a plan by “East Coast liberals” they said would limit opportunities for livestock producers and for young Iowans to farm.
“In my view, it would wipe out thousands of family farms in Iowa,” said state Sen. Ken Rozenboom, R-Oskaloosa, whose family farm operation has involved five generations.
Sen. Cory Booker’s Farms System Reform Act, which he said Democratic United States House 2nd District hopeful Rita Hart has endorsed, would place a moratorium on concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and phase them out by 2040. It would hit farm operations with 1,000 cattle, 2,500 hogs or 82,000 hens.
Booker’s plan would reduce food production, increase food prices and destroy thousands of Iowa jobs, Rozenboom said.
“And not a small thing, it would take food off the table for millions of people around the world,” he said on a call organized by GOP state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who also is seeking to succeed retiring Rep. Dave Loebsack in the 2nd District.
The Hart campaign, however, denied that she had endorsed Booker’s plan. During a meeting with the Iowa Farmers Union, Hart, who farms with her husband, said she agreed with the principles of Booker’s legislation to reform CAFOs, but wanted to learn more about the plan that has not been endorsed by farm groups.
Family farmers are having a harder time succeeding because of consolidation in agriculture and many have been displaced, Harts said.
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“I am very much interested in working on any kind of plan that promotes a different way of going about that so that independent family farms can continue to provide a way of life for so many families and contribute in a real way to feeding the world,” Hart said.
But Iowa farmers “need a champion in Congress; not a bureaucrat lecturing them,” Miller=Meeks said.
“Rita Hart has turned her back on the Iowa farmer to appease the radical left.,” she said, adding that as a 24-yrar Army veteran, “I’m not afraid to fight for the Iowa farmer and fight against this extreme legislation.”
However, changes in the industry have created opportunities for Iowans to return to the farm, said Jasper County hog producer Thad Nearmyer. During the run-up to the Iowa caucuses, he confronted Booker about the impact the plan would have on the hog farm he and his brother operate.
The legislation won’t empower farmers, according to state Sen. Annette Sweeney, R-Alden, who called Hart a “reactionary pawn” for signing on to Booker’s plan. “He is going to strip our young farmers of the ability to be able to come home to the family farm and continue that legacy.”
Starting with a small livestock operation is the way many younger Iowans get into farming, said Emily Snider, a fourth-generation Johnson County farmer. She and her husband, Mike, farm with her father, Ray Slach.
The plan Hart is backing “is extremely hurtful for livestock production,” Snider said. “It shows me that they do not know much about the farm industry, and the way Rita Hart is embracing this act is even worse because she thinks this would be good for Iowa when it would be devastating.”
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