Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders discussed rural and farm issues during his time speaking with members of the Iowa Farmers Union at their summer picnic in Nevada.
The sounds of a guitar and fiddle filled the barn overlooking acres of cornfields — painting a Grant Wood-esque landscape before Sanders spoke.
When the senator began his address, he joked he is a musician too, before turning serious and noting the state he represents in Congress — Vermont — is very rural, much like Iowa.
“The problems are basically the same — and one of the saddest things that we are experiencing … people are [losing family farms every day],” Sanders said.
Patti Naylor, who has a farm northeast of Churdan, Iowa, said she caucused for Sanders in 2016.
“When he got to agriculture … he touched on some really good points,” Naylor said.
Sanders said he believes the American people “strongly prefer” family-based agriculture, rather than factory farming.
“It is hard to believe that in community after community, enormous numbers of chemicals have to be used in the water plants so that people can drink the water,” Sanders said.
Sanders received extended applause when he called for “breaking up the incredible agribusiness monopolies.”
“[W]e need policies which protect our food supply, which protect the ability of young people to get into the family farm business, which bring businesses into rural communities, which make sure that we have quality health care in under-served areas,” Sanders said.
An audience member told Sanders “what we need is a price floor, supply management and a grain reserve.”
Sanders told them he agrees.
“It’s not rocket science to suggest that if you’re losing money producing your product, you can’t stay in business,” Sanders said. “If we believe in maintaining and growing family based agriculture … they’re going to have to have a price that they can make a living on.”
Sarah Moody, senior in political science, told Sanders she gets a lot of questions from farmers, and said the word “socialism” makes them “nervous.”
“I’m wondering what you’re going to do as you’re campaigning — as you’re talking to rural America — to clear up those misconceptions, make people less afraid of socialism and try and get them on board,” Moody said.
Sanders brought up a speech President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave in 1944 in response. Sanders said Roosevelt’s address touched on how Americans should be “very proud” of their political liberties and political freedoms.
“But then what he said is — we have got to go further … we have got to talk about economic rights as human rights,” Sanders said. “Do you have the right to healthcare in this country? Is that a guaranteed right?”
Sanders asked whether people have a right to a “decent job,” a right to potable water, a right to education. The audience replied no.
“What Roosevelt was talking [about] back in 1944, and what we are trying to continue is to understand that those rights are vitally important rights … we need to instill in the American people the understanding that economic rights are also human rights,” Sanders said.
The senator said in his view, democratic socialism refers to “a vibrant democracy, which not only protects people’s political rights, but their economic rights as well.”
Sharon Donovan, a Sanders supporter from Clive, said she likes just about everything about Sanders.
“I like that he is big on climate change and understands the seriousness [of] the threat to all life on the planet,” Donovan said.
The event cleared out soon after Sanders finished speaking, and people briskly made their way to their cars as another storm rolled in over the cornfields.