Staff Editorial

2020 brings big ideas for agriculture

Corn is harvested in rural Marion on Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Corn is harvested in rural Marion on Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

During a visit to Iowa last week, one of the top contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination unveiled an ambitious plan to fundamentally reorganize the agriculture industry.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders told voters in Osage he would enact laws to “breakup existing massive agribusinesses” and enforce a moratorium on corporate mergers in the farming sector. He and his supporters are concerned that a small number of “factory farm” businesses control a huge share of crop and livestock production.

“If Teddy Roosevelt were alive today, you know what he would say to these behemoth agribusiness companies: He would say, break them up. And, working together, that is exactly what we are going to do,” Sanders wrote in a newly released policy paper.

Sanders’ anti-conglomeration plan is just one recent example. Other presidential candidates are offering big ideas that could wholly transform the way Iowans feed the world.

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker has suggested imposing new regulations on livestock farming. Former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke would seek net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, including in the farming industry.

For his part, President Donald Trump has championed international trade restrictions that have both increased operating costs and threatened already-fragile commodity prices.

We do not mean to dismiss or condemn any of the candidates’ plans out of hand. We are grateful such issues have grabbed candidates’ attention.

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Still, it’s important to recognize some proposals would represent a radical departure from the prevailing policies of the last few decades. The impacts of such changes are impossible to fully realize before implementation, but caucusgoers must do their best to scrutinize them.

Nationally and in Iowa, Democrats recognize that engaging with rural voters is crucial to electoral success. That is a welcome development, and one Iowa politicos have long advocated for.

Of course, rural interests are not limited to agriculture policy. Voters who live in small towns and unincorporated areas are concerned with the same things as city-dwellers — infrastructure, jobs and education, to name a few.

A key consideration for Iowa voters should be how candidates propose to implement their policies — through legislation, or by executive action?

The most promising candidates will be those who commit to the hard work of building consensus among constituents and lawmakers, rather than those who would resort to bureaucratic maneuvering to achieve their desired ends.

Big challenges call for big ideas, but solutions will prove workable only if stakeholders are afforded the opportunity to help craft those policies.

• Comments: (319) 339-3156; adam.sullivan@thegazette.com

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