CHRIS PETERSEN, Clear Lake, with Marian Kuper, Iowa Falls; Gary Hoskey, Montour; John Gilbert, Iowa Falls; Garry Klicker, Bloomfield; and Tom Frantzen, New Hampton, are members of the Iowa Agricultural Council of the Humane Society of United States. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to The Des Moines Register for its Dec. 12 editorial outlining the absurdity of U.S. Rep. Steve King’s amendment to the farm bill, which would bar any state from imposing its own higher standards on food produced or made in another state.
Amendments like his are, at a minimum, a distraction from the real issues. They also point out King’s true constituency, which certainly doesn’t include us.
Agriculture is changing. It’s become industrialized and corporatized. Fully 91 percent of independent pig farmers have vanished over the last few decades along with majority percentages of other independent livestock producers.
This trend is incredibly disturbing because it is devastating for family farms, rural communities, the environment, consumers, even the animals themselves. But Congressman King apparently sees nothing wrong with this picture.
King has become beholden to, aligned with and captured by our vertically integrated industrialized agricultural system.
The real problems of farmers, rural communities and consumers evidently don’t concern him. He apparently doesn’t care that farmers trying desperately to maintain a semblance of economic independence have but few options. They can find a specialized livestock niche, become institutionalized in the system, or give up and get entirely out of the livestock business.
King should be ashamed of himself for siding with those who want to sideline consumer choice. He should be ashamed of himself for wanting to thwart family farmers who want to produce food sustainably with consumer preferences in mind.
Large food retailers are beginning to listen to consumers who demand to know where, how and by whom their food is produced and processed. Gestation crates, battery cages, GMOs, antibiotic use, food safety, pesticides and many more such issues are consumer-driven.
Congressman King, are you saying consumers should forget all that? Should independent, traditional, family-farm agriculture disappear, with the lack of consumer knowledge and support, your America begins to resemble the collective farm system of the former Soviet Union more than anything else.
Let’s cheer on — not impede— the independent, sustainable family farmers who are responding to these consumer wishes by growing and changing their businesses to meet the demands. Local food, sustainably produced, and animals treated with respect and dignity — this is what consumers are asking of agriculture. They ask that livestock producers, in particular, treat animals humanely. The King amendment ignores this plea and thus impedes what could be the birth of a food revolution marked by safer, higher-quality food and, ultimately, the survival of independent family-farm agriculture.
Congressman King says he decries government overreach. His amendment, however, calls for government to play a heavier hand. Clearly, he is anything but a free-market proponent or a people-first legislator where food production is concerned, despite his assurances to the contrary.
And Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey’s reference to “anti-ag extremists,” labeling any opposition to vertically integrated agriculture, is very disappointing. Actually, who are the extremists in this argument?
The survival of independent family farms depends upon all of us, especially consumers. Consumers need to insist upon and fight for their choices.
If a majority of people understood industrialized animal agriculture as it is currently practiced, that agriculture would be unacceptable and inexcusable in this country.
As for traditional independent family farms, what was mainstream agriculture 25 years ago is now considered “organic,” “niche” or “alternative.” That’s where we are today. Consumers, you have choices. Voice your opinions. Support family farms. Support farming that has a conscience.
We, the members of the Iowa Agricultural Council of the Humane Society of United States, ask you to oppose the King amendment to the farm bill. Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard, 202-224-3121, and tell your congressmen and senators what you think.