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Bernie Sanders Takes on Monsanto, Big Ag Monopolies With Plan to 'Revitalize Rural America'

"What you want, and what I want, are more family farms in America, not more factory farms."

A supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders holds up a 'Farmers for Bernie' sign during a rally. (Photo: Joe Sohm/Visions of America/UIG via Getty Images)

During a campaign stop in Iowa on Sunday, Bernie Sanders unveiled an ambitious plan to take on agriculture behemoths like Bayer-Monsanto and ensure rural communities have the necessary resources to thrive "economically and ecologically."

Sanders's proposals, collectively titled "Revitalizing Rural America," would break up agribusiness monopolies with "Roosevelt-style trust-busting laws," reform patent laws to protect farmers from the predatory practices of agribusiness corporations, and pass national legislation to allow farmers to repair their own equipment.

"Maybe I'm kind of radical here, but I think a farmer who produces the food that we eat is maybe almost as important as some crook on Wall Street who destroys the economy."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders

"Here in Iowa, a third of the entire state's economy is tied directly to agriculture," Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, told the audience gathered at a rally in the city of Osage.

"More and more of the state's agriculture is being dominated by just a handful of large corporations, who, it seems to me from a distance, own the Iowa state legislature and legislatures throughout this country," the Vermont senator said.

Because of the immense power and consolidation of the agricultural industry, Sanders said, "family farmers are going bankrupt and in many ways are being treated like modern day indentured servants."

"What you want, and what I want, are more family farms in America, not more factory farms," said Sanders.

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On his campaign website, Sanders laid out his plan to "revitalize rural America," which would impose a moratorium on mergers between two giant agribusiness corporations.

Sanders also called for patent law reforms to shield farmers from "predatory patent lawsuits from seed corporations."

"We cannot continue to allow Monsanto to control 80 percent of U.S. corn and more than 90 percent of U.S. soybean seed patents—a situation that has only gotten worse after the Trump administration approved Monsanto's disastrous merger with Bayer," Sanders wrote.

According to Sanders's website, the plan would also:

  • Reform agricultural subsidies so that more federal support goes to small- and mid-sized family farms, rather than that support going disproportionately to a handful of the largest producers;
  • Help farms of all sizes transition to sustainable agricultural practices that rebuild rural communities, protect the climate, and strengthen the environment;
  • Ensure rural residents have the right to protect their families and properties from chemical and biological pollution, including pesticide, and herbicide drift;
  • Enforce fair and just labor laws—including the right to organize and overtime protections—to end wage theft, harassment, and discrimination and mass immigration raids;
  • Ensure access to high-speed broadband internet to every American.

"I come from one of the most rural and the most beautiful states in the United States. I will not write off rural America," Sanders said during the rally in Osage on Sunday. "Maybe I'm kind of radical here, but I think a farmer who produces the food that we eat is maybe almost as important as some crook on Wall Street who destroys the economy."

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