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Column: Save the family farm

Farmer Illinois

Farmer John Ackerman, right, and laborers Alex Ford, left, and Jared Walter, background, harvest pumpkins from a field Friday, Sept. 11, 2020, at Ackerman Family Farms in Morton, Ill. (Matt Dayhoff/Journal Star via AP)

When most people think of small businesses they see a brick and mortar store on Main Street that offers retail or restaurant services. The last thing most would picture is the work worn hands of a farmer caring for Berkshire hogs on a small farm. But that’s exactly what family farms are, a small business.

Farming is the only thing I’ve ever known - it’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. I’m a third generation American farmer and I had my first pigs when I was a sophomore in high school. I love farming, and like any other small business, farming comes with its challenges. There are times throughout my life when I have had to go without healthcare because we just simply couldn’t afford it. That’s a dangerous way to live when both my wife and I have health concerns that require medical attention. That’s part of the reason I worked so hard to support the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It is a lifesaver for people like us.

Over the past decade Republicans have tried again and again to repeal the ACA. I can’t help but worry that if they get control of Congress, they’ll come after my healthcare and make preexisting conditions a death sentence for folks like me. We need more elected representatives like Senator McCain who put the needs of everyday Americans over party politics.

But it isn’t just health care that’s a challenge for farmers, it's the way the system is rigged to favor corporate farms and monopolies over family farmers like myself. Big companies are pushing out little guys like me and ruining our rural way of life. I’ve seen it here in Clear Lake and I’ve seen it across Iowa.

Today, there are four main conglomerates that control the meat industry, and they control 66% of the pork industry. While families are seeing rising prices at the grocery store and corporations are seeing record profits, it’s the little guys like me who are getting squeezed out of any earnings. I hear a lot of talk from politicians in Washington about inflation and meat monopolies, but so far, that’s all they’ve done is talk.

Politicians like Ashley Hinson talk about fighting for rural Iowans and our way of life. But, so far, I haven’t seen it. In fact, she says she supports making the Tax Cuts Jobs Act permanent, another gift to the fat cat CEOs and ultra-wealthy. If she wants to support rural Iowans and our way of life, she needs to realize that we’re working our tails off to keep going. We really don’t want to worry about our representative in DC trying to take away our healthcare and rig the system to push family farmers like me out of business in favor of corporate interests.

When you think about small businesses, remember that farmers like me are small-business owners. We work hard to provide food for our communities and our nation and we deserve to have our representatives in Washington working for us.

 

Chris Peterson is a family farmer from Clear Lake, Iowa.

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