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Senator Amanda Ragan describes 5 ways Iowa agriculture is getting a boost

Amanda Ragan
The following is a legislative update from State Senator Amanda Ragan, representing portions of Franklin, Butler and Cerro Gordo counties:

A comprehensive approach to pandemic recovery can help ensure Iowans get back on their feet, give small businesses the tools to thrive, and stabilize small and large communities.

President Biden’s latest initiatives to Build Back Better will encourage competition<> in agriculture—the backbone of Iowa’s economy—which will benefit consumers, workers, farmers and small businesses

“This is a once in a generation opportunity to transform the food system so it is more resilient to shocks, delivers greater value to growers and workers, and offers consumers an affordable selection of healthy food produced and sourced locally and regionally by farmers and processors from diverse backgrounds,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack during a recent visit to the state<>.

Agriculture, like most U.S. industries, is dominated by a few big companies. For example, four large meatpacking monopolies dominate the beef market and just four companies control most of the world’s seeds.

That lack of competition forces families to pay more to put food on their tables; drives down wages for workers and prices for farmers; and stifles productivity, investment and innovation.

COVID-19 shed light on the shortcomings of Iowa’s highly-concentrated meatpacking industry. Employees working in tight quarters at large plants became sick, forcing facilities to shut down, and leaving farmers with no place to process their livestock.

Under new initiatives to boost competition in agriculture, Iowa will benefit from:

1. $655 million to strengthen the meat-processing industry. This includes $500 million for grants, loans and technical assistance to build smaller meat processing plants closer to farmers; and $155 million to help small and medium-sized meat processers cover unexpected costs, federal inspections and expansions that can make them more competitive.

2. Better prices to farmers for their commodities. The current system forces farmers to sell to a few big corporations, which limits their ability to negotiate. Over the last five years, the farmers’ share of the price of beef, for example, has dropped significantly, while the price has gone up at the grocery store.

3. Stronger oversight of big meatpacking and other agricultural monopolies that suppress wages and drive up food prices.

4. Better country-of-origin labeling so that consumers know where their food is from, whether it’s safe and if it’s produced by American workers.

5. Giving farmers the right to fix their own equipment or hire an independent mechanic, rather than forcing them to get high-priced repairs from the manufacturer.

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