From the farm crisis to our current pandemic, farmers need a fair price

In 1985, CCI members like Virginia Genzen, a farmer from Crawford County in Northwest Iowa (photographed to the right leading a rally of hundred of Iowans outside the House chambers) were in the middle of the farm crisis. Farmers across Iowa and the country were faced with prices below the cost of production. As we know, those closest to the problem are also closest to the solution, and this was no exception.

Virginia and other farmers understood the importance of guaranteeing a fair price that covered the cost of production and provided farmers a livable income. Meanwhile, corporate ag created and pushed a false “get big or get out” narrative pushing farmers out of business.

In 1985, it appeared that Democrats were on board with fighting for a fair price. With grassroots support, a state level minimum price bill passed out of both chambers, forcing Terry Branstad to show his true colors when he vetoed the bill.

The following year, in 1986, when Branstad was up for election, instead of doubling down and working for Iowa farmers who had been facing years of crisis, Democrats put their tail between their legs and backed down. Not only did this leave family farmers in the lurch it also solidified corporate ag’s stranglehold on our state and its elected officials of both parties.

When big-D Democrats left farmers in the lurch, CCI members didn’t stop fighting. We held rallies, and held Democrats’ and Republicans’ feet to the fire, even staging a two-night occupation of the state capitol. CCI members kept fighting because we understood what was at stake: the livelihood and lives of farmers, their families and their communities.

It’s important to look back at where we have been to guide where we are going. As we face many crises in 2020, we know; there is no room for half measures, even if it comes from someone with a ‘D’ behind their name; that real change starts from the ground up and that it’s everyday Iowans who are going to create the change we need; and when we say we want a better food & farm system for farmers, they aren’t just words, we mean it. This starts with a moratorium on factory farms in Iowa, and beyond that, dismantling the corporate control of our agriculture system, ensuring a fair price for what farmers produce.