Blog for Rural America

The Center for Rural Affairs, a private, non-profit organization, is working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities. Permission to reprint items from this web log is hereby granted, on the condition that clear credit is given to the original source of the material. If the blog provides information for a story, please let us know by sending an email to

Monday, July 24, 2006

Iowa Farmers Union Farm Bill Hearing Testimony

JULY 24, 2006

Thank you, Chairman Chambliss and Senator Harkin for holding this field hearing and providing me the opportunity to testify before your committee regarding the 2002 farm bill and future agriculture policy. My name is Chris Petersen; I serve as the president of Iowa Farmers Union, in addition to my family farm operation in Clear Lake, Iowa. I have been involved in production agriculture in varying degrees for 35 years including commodity crops; presently my wife and I maintain a 30-sow Berkshire herd; produce 400 pigs a year, all of which are sold locally or to niche pork companies. Also, we raise and sell beef to local consumers, raise vegetables for area restaurants, and produce and sell hay commercially.

Over the years I have participated in many farm bills and their components, including the 2002 Farm Security and Rural Investment Act. I am part of a shrinking pool of independent family farmers across America and speak with the interests of independent family farm food producers in mind. Corporate American agriculture seems to be doing quite well in terms of its economic stability; my goal today is to address the economic interests of independent family farm food producers, who founded this great country.

Every politician, voter, taxpayer, environmentalist, consumer, and the list goes on…need to realize independent family farmers are by far the best stewards of the land and animals. The independent, localized family farm structure has a proven track record of success in America. Straying from this proven structure jeopardizes the United States’ national strategic security, homeland security, anti-terrorism protection, the environment, rural economic development, food safety and food quality, and now energy independence. Federal agricultural policy that prioritizes the interests of independent family farm food producers is vital to not just us as producers, but to our country. It is my hope the committee will keep that in mind as it works to prepare future policy.

As a hog producer, I witness the challenges of an anti-competitive marketplace. I went through the 1998 price collapse of hog markets as a 3000 head farrow-to-finish producer and paid severe economic consequences. Since that market collapse, I have asked elected officials and others why our government has failed to step up to the plate and take action to prevent future tragedies. It was very disappointing the final version of the 2002 Farm Bill did not include a competition title, which was part of the Senate’s farm bill. I believe addressing anti-trust issues, restoring competitive markets and including a competition title in the next farm bill is a must to addressing what I see as one of the biggest problems in agriculture.

Without competitive markets, independent producers like me will continue to be pushed off the land or be turned into low-wage employees by corporate industrialized animal agriculture. I encourage the committee to include a strong competition title in the next farm bill, which should include but not limited to, a ban on packer feeding, reauthorization of an improved mandatory price reporting program and require USDA to start doing its job by enforcing the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and the Packers and Stockyards Act. I would go further in asking the committee to re-vamp and update anti trust and competition laws to the 21st century, in century, in order to reflect today’s current practices. However, the laws will be of no use if Congress does not mandate that USDA enforce them. In addition to anti-competitive markets, most contract producers are bound by clauses in their contracts that prevent them from pursuing legal redress. In the best interests of contract growers, a ban on mandatory binding arbitration should be included in a competition title…(to be continued)

post a question or comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action


  • At 11:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This was taken off the internet - just who is this guy - lobbyiest or activist and who pays him to do what he is doing??

    Press Resources: Expert List and Biographies

    The following is a list of GRACE Factory Farm Campaign experts on factory farming or confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) issues.
    Media interested in speaking with or interviewing any of these experts, please contact Chris Hunt: 1.212.726.9161,

    Consultant, GRACE Factory Farm Project
    • Legislative and regulatory matters, with a focus on Iowa
    • Farm bill
    Chris Petersen is an independent pork producer in Iowa and President of Iowa Farmers Union. When he realized that corporate hog producers were destroying family farmers and their communities, threatening individual's health, and jeopardizing the environment, he began leveling the playing field by collaborating with other individuals and groups to hold politicians and corporations accountable for actions that severely affect rural America. The hardworking, effective group became known as the "Freedom Fighters." The "Freedom Fighters" have been instrumental in a new mandatory price reporting law; they have proposed price discrimination legislation for small livestock producers; they are responsible for proposed national legislation on packer feeding; and they continue to lobby the government for strict environmental laws to protect family farms and the environment. Chris has appeared on 60 Minutes and worked with PBS, BBC and ARD German T.V. He was appointed to sit on an EPA "Revisions Panel Task Force" from July through October 1999 as a family farmer/independent pork producer to give advice on rewriting the new CAFO/AFO rules changes. In 1999 and 2000 he worked as an adviser to Vice President Al Gore on family farm issues, and throughout 2004 he was involved as an advisor on agriculture policy for the democratic candidates to the 2004 presidential elections. Since then, Chris has continued his rural, family farm, and food grassroots advocacy efforts within the Democratic party, and tirelessly continues to lobby against the factory farms and public policy issues that threaten the health, economic livelihood, and environment of rural communities.
    taken off web on August 26, 2006 10:46 AM

  • At 9:30 PM, Blogger Center for Rural Affairs said…

    Chris is a good friend of mine and has been a good friend to the Center for Rural Affairs. I do not believe that the terms lobbyist and activist are mutually exclusive but, I would call Chris an activist. He farms, serves as the Iowa Farmers Union President and work for GRACE. I have no idea and do not care how much money he makes from any of those sources. I will say this, Chris does what he does because he believes in what he does, and he certainly doesn't sit around on his butt until someone pays him to do it.

    If you want to know more about Chris Petersen, send me an e-mail with your name and phone number and I'll have him call you. I have no doubt he will be more than happy to explain what he does and why to anyone who wants to ask.

    John Crabtree,
    Center for Rural Affairs

    P.S. I was (and proudly remain) a charter member of the "Family Farm Freedom Fighters" mentioned in the biographical sketch posted above.

  • At 9:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    i don't know what the earlier post was trying to say, and i don't know Chris Peterson, but i agree with what he had to say about farm policy

  • At 5:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    chris petersen is a big fuckin cry baby!!!

  • At 6:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    you hit the nail right on the head! he is one fucking ball baby!

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