Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaks to a packed house at a rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Thursday, March 7, 2019. (Photo: AP/Nati Harnik)

In Iowa, Sanders Addresses 'Rural Community Issues We Almost Never Hear About': Factory Farms and Big Ag

"We have seen family farmers by the thousands go out of business, as the prices that they receive for their products decline rapidly, and large agribusiness corporations and factory farming take over agriculture."

Eoin Higgins

Bernie Sanders took aim at factory farms and agribusiness in a speech kicking off his Iowa presidential campaign Thursday.

"We need policies in Washington for rural America that represent the needs of working people and family farmers," the Independent senator from Vermont told a crowd of around 2,000 at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, "not agribusiness and large, multinational corporations."

That Sanders would focus on agriculture in his first Iowa appearance isn't a surprise: the Midwestern state has seen an explosion in factory farming over the past two decades and that growth is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. According to a report at Food and Water Watch, there were at least 15,000 factory farms in operation in Iowa in 2018—producing untold amounts of pollution and waste. 

Mega-mergers in the pork packing industry have fueled the rise of factory farms. Between 1982 and 2007, the number of hog farms in Iowa plunged by 82 percent, while the average number of hogs per farm rose from just under 500 to just over 5,000—a 10-fold increase. In 2018, an Iowa State economics professor predicted that hog production would expand faster in Iowa than in the rest of the country.

Consolidation and incorporation of the farming industry have had major effects on the health and economic well being of Iowans. Sanders noted that change in his speech Thursday.

"We have seen family farmers by the thousands go out of business, as the prices that they receive for their products decline rapidly," Sanders said, "and large agribusiness corporations and factory farming takes over agriculture."

Sanders also addressed the power held by large farming companies in how they interact with both smaller farms and the economy of Iowa and the U.S. as a whole. After listing a litany of problems plaguing the rural communities in Iowa, the senator talked solutions—beginning with enforcing laws put in place to stop corporate consolidation.

"Among many other things that need to be done is for the federal government to enforce anti-trust laws," said Sanders.

Reaction to the mention of agribusiness in the speech was positive from both Sanders supporters and agriculture and health advocates. 

Watch the whole speech here:


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Historic Offshore Wind Lease Sale in California Gets Over $750 Million in Winning Bids

"If we build on today's forward momentum, the United States can dramatically reduce its global warming emissions and become a global leader in renewable energy technologies like deep-water offshore wind."

Brett Wilkins ·


Solidarity Fund Up and Running for Designer Behind Iconic Bernie Sanders Posters

Tyler Evans "has dedicated his life to the progressive movement," says the GoFundMe created for the hospitalized designer. "Now it's our time to have Tyler's back when he and his family need it most."

Jessica Corbett ·


Journalism Defenders Push for Passage of 'Game-Changing' PRESS Act

"The PRESS Act is the most important free press legislation in modern times because it would finally stop the government from spying on journalists and threatening them with arrest for doing their jobs," explained one advocate.

Brett Wilkins ·


New York Times Union Workers Planning Dec. 8 Walkout, Rally Over Pay

"Our collective action is working: Management backed off its attempt to kill our pension and agreed to expand fertility benefits," the union said of ongoing talks. "But management still barely budged on some of our most important priorities."

Jessica Corbett ·


Dems Back Blue Dog Spanberger for Swing District Post Over Progressive Cartwright

The corporate Democrat's path to victory was "pretty simple," said one progressive. "Matt Cartwright supports Medicare for All and Spanberger is a former CIA agent who spends all her time punching left."

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo