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Almost 40% of households that were working in February and earned less than $40,000 a year lost a job in March, meaning the pain felt all across our country is concentrated in our working and lower-income families. Yet, our representatives in Washington continue to prioritize big corporations over rural communities, working families, and small businesses, with corporate lobbyists gaming the system for their own benefit.

So far, Congress’s coronavirus relief packages have failed to provide sufficient aid to those who truly need it. Because of a major loophole in the original bill that allocated millions of dollars to large corporations, the House recently passed a $480 billion relief package to replenish funds for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). While this program intended to provide relief for small businesses, it simply wasn’t enough. …

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The coronavirus pandemic has revealed deep cracks and vulnerabilities in our broken agriculture system. Once we clearly see what’s broken, hopefully there’s enough public outrage and political will to fix it.

For decades, our agriculture system has grown increasingly concentrated, making it unfair, unsustainable, and unstable for farmers, workers, and consumers. We’ve seen this play out across the board from “get big or get off the farm” policies to corporate consolidation in seed, fertilizer, pesticide, farm machinery, meatpacking, and more, to the rise of Dollar Generals pushing out small independent grocers.

In the past few weeks, no industry has been under as much scrutiny as meatpacking. Multinational corporations have consolidated the country’s meatpacking plants, and today, in the cattle industry alone, 50 plants slaughter and produce 98% of our beef. This degree of concentration means that any disruption in a plant — like the fire at Tyson Foods’ Holcomb, Kansas plant last year or the current closure of at least 8 meatpacking plants and 5 processed food plants due to COVID-19 — has larger effects on markets, worker safety, and our food supply. …

Coming to you from my car just outside of the Tyson meatpacking plant here in Dakota City, Nebraska, which is right across the river from Sioux City.

They’ve had a lot of COVID-19 cases from the workers in here and just a few days ago, the CEO of Tyson said that our food supply is breaking.

The truth is that it’s been broken for a while. The one thing that I hope this crisis does is shine a spotlight on what’s happening in our food systems.

Decades of prioritizing efficiency and corporate profits over the resilience and fairness has made our food system unfair and unsustainable and unstable. We see this play out from policies of “get big or get off the farm,” corporate consolidation, and the rise of Dollar Generals undercutting our independent small grocers. …


J.D. Scholten

J.D. Scholten is running against Steve King to serve Iowa’s 4th district in Congress. He’s a 5th generation Iowan, born in Ames and raised in Sioux City.

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