Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders announced his plan to support rural America on Sunday, promising to hold factory farms and corporate agribusiness accountable by strengthening regulations to protect smaller family farms.
"I come from one of the most rural and the most beautiful states in the United States, I will not write off rural America," the Vermont senator told a cheering crowd in Osage, Iowa.
"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," he added.
In his remarks, Sanders lamented how many small farmers are often at the financial mercy of a single buyer or supplier setting prices.
"Agribusiness conglomerates extract as much wealth out of small communities as they possibly can while family farmers are going bankrupt and in many ways are being treated like modern day indentured servants," he said.
Sanders promised "an immediate moratorium on agribusiness mergers" should he be elected and an attorney general willing to "break up large agribusiness corporations."
He committed to sweeping anti-trust protections for family farmers from "corporate middle men" and seed companies, as well as new laws that protect small farmers from "predatory patent lawsuits," and allow them to sue companies that contaminate neighboring farms with genetically altered crops.
Sanders also vowed to restore the agency that enforced anti-trust laws in the meatpacking industry -- which Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue slashed as a stand-alone agency in 2017.
On pollution emissions, Sanders said he would hold factory farms accountable for such pollution by strictly enforcing the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act.
He also slammed corporate agricultural lobbyists, promising to combat their efforts funneling Agriculture Department subsidies toward a handful of powerful farmers or landowners.
"We will cap those subsidies coming from Washington and make sure they are targeted to the farmers who need that help, not to these profitable agribusiness corporations," he said.
Sanders also emphasized the ties between agriculture and other policy fields including national security, climate change and immigration.
He warned against foreign companies and countries buying up American cropland as a national security threat, promising to regulate the practice and put the agriculture secretary "on the national security panel that regulates foreign investments in the United States."
He also advocated for legislation to help farmers transition to "regenerative, independent family framing practices" to help foster soil carbon absorption and to provide disaster relief to farmers who have suffered from flooding and other natural disasters.
On immigration, Sanders called for a path to citizenship and expanded visas for undocumented farm workers, as well as an end to workplace immigration raids.
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