Issues

Improving the Rural Economy

As someone who has represented a rural state for more than 24 years, improving the lives of rural Americans is a top priority for Senator Sanders.

Family farms and ranches are the backbone of rural America and the U.S. economy.  Farmers are also among our nation’s foremost stewards of our lands and water.

Throughout his career, Senator Sanders has successfully fought for innovative rural economic development initiatives, including investments in farm-to-school and farm-to-table initiatives; agri-tourism programs; school gardens; large scale bio-mass fired electric plants; shared agricultural processing and storage facilities; and anaerobic digesters to process cow manure into methane gas.

Senator Sanders understands that agriculture programs need to be counter-cyclical to assure market-derived commodity income at levels that advance and sustain family-scale farming.

Senator Sanders will fight for farm policies that will foster the entry of a new generation of owner-operators.  He will not back away from land stewardship standards that include the commonwealth of clean water for all.

Senator Sanders will fight for policies that:

Family Farms Instead of Factory Farms

Senator Sanders believes that we need more family farms, not more factory farms.

It is unacceptable that just four corporations control 82% of the nation’s beef cattle market, 85% of soybean processing, and 63% of pork processing.  It is unacceptable that there are over 300,000 fewer farmers than there were 20 years ago.

It is unacceptable that the top 10% of farms collect 75% of farm subsidies, while the bottom 62% do not receive any subsidies.  We have to adopt policies that will turn this around.

Supporting Agriculture

In 1966, farmers received 40 cents for every dollar Americans spent on food. Today, they only receive 16 cents on the dollar.

We must reverse this trend by:

  1. Fighting for America’s small and mid-sized farms. Abraham Lincoln called the United States Department of Agriculture the “People’s Department” and Senator Sanders will ensure that the agency lives up to this name by expanding its services for new and underserved farmers.
  2. Encouraging the growth of regional food systems. Farmers throughout the country are boosting their bottom line and reinvigorating their communities by selling directly to local consumers, institutions, and restaurants. Senator Sanders will invest in this movement, helping Americans support local farms.
  3. Reversing trade policies like NAFTA that have flooded the American market with agricultural goods produced in countries with less stringent environmental, labor, and safety regulations.
  4. Enforcing our country’s antitrust laws against large agribusiness and food corporations. A few large companies dominate many agricultural industries, allowing them to force unfair prices on farmers. Senator Sanders will stand up to these corporations and fight to ensure that farmers receive fair prices.

INVESTING IN RENEWABLE ENERGY FOR A CLEANER ENVIRONMENT AND NEW INCOME FOR FARMERS

Senator Sanders supports major investments in wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, and other sources of renewable energy.  These investments are not only important to combat global warming, they are also critically important in improving the farm economy.

The good news is that farmers and ranchers all over this country are leading the charge toward a more sustainable energy future.

Today, more than 57,000 farms are taking advantage of renewable energy production — which has more than doubled since 2007.

Nowhere is that more true than in Iowa.  Today, farmers and rural landowners in Iowa receive over $17 million in lease payments from wind developers – and have the potential to nearly triple over the next 15 years.

Today, Iowa reliably generates over 28% of its electricity from wind — which supports 7,000 good-paying jobs in-state.

Senator Sanders would substantially increase investments in wind energy and would make the Wind Production Tax Credit permanent.  By making these investments, wind could supply over 40 percent of Iowa’s electricity in the next five years.  By 2030 wind energy in Iowa could supply enough electricity for 6.3 million average American homes.

And, it’s not only wind.  Biofuels like ethanol have been an economic lifeline to rural and farm communities in Iowa and throughout the Midwest, supporting over 850,000 workers, all while keeping our energy dollars here at home instead of going into the pockets of oil barons in the Middle East and Russia.

Senator Sanders strongly supports the Renewable Fuels Standard that is helping us move beyond oil.

Moreover, when we talk about harnessing energy from the sun, the good news is that solar panels accounted for more than 60% of renewable energy production systems on farms.  According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the cost of residential solar has come down 75% since 2009.

Over half of the electric generating capacity added to the grid last year was renewable energy from new wind and solar projects. There is enough solar power in America to power four million homes. And, as we generate new sustainable energy, we also generate new opportunities. Today, the rate of job growth in the solar industry is ten times higher than the national average.

While this is a step in the right direction, much more needs to be done to ensure our planet remains habitable, improve the environment, and help our farmers in Iowa and across the country.  Substantially increasing our investments in renewable energy must be a top priority

BERNIE’S PLAN TO REBUILD RURAL AMERICA

Addressing the infrastructure crisis facing the country – and creating the millions of jobs our economy desperately needs – has been an essential plank of Senator Sanders’ campaign.

Senator Sanders’ Rebuild America Act will make substantial infrastructure investments in Iowa and throughout rural America.

Improving our electric grid.  Senator Sanders understands that we desperately need to improve our aging rural electrical grid, which consists of a patchwork system of interconnected power generation, transmission, and distribution facilities, some of which date back to the early 1900s.

Today, the World Economic Forum ranks our electric grid at just 24th in the world in terms of reliability, just behind Barbados.

As part of the Rebuild America Act, Senator Sanders would invest $50 billion on power transmission and distribution modernization projects to improve the reliability and resiliency of our ever more complex electric power grid.  This investment will also position our grid to accept new sources of locally generated renewable energy, and it will address critical vulnerabilities to cyber-attacks.

Investing in broadband and high-speed Internet services.  Another critically important rural infrastructure issue that often goes overlooked is the expansion of broadband. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ranks the U.S. 16th in the world in terms of broadband access.

Today, people living in Bucharest, Romania have access to much faster Internet than most of the United States.  That’s unacceptable and must change.

Senator Sanders’ Rebuild America Act would invest $25 billion over five years to expand high-speed broadband networks in under-served and un-served areas, and would boost speeds and capacity all across the country, particularly in rural areas.

High-speed Internet access is no longer a luxury.  It is essential for 21st century commerce, education, telemedicine, and public safety.  And, it’s especially important for rural America to stay connected and to do business with the rest of the world.

Improving our dams and levees.  Senator Sanders’ plan also addresses dams and levees. Right now, more than 4,000 of the nation’s 84,000 dams are considered deficient.

Even worse, one of every eleven levees have been rated as “likely to fail” during a major flood. Most of those facilities are in rural areas.

The Rebuild America Act will invest $12 billion a year to repair and improve the high-hazard dams that provide flood control, drinking water, irrigation, hydropower, and recreation across rural America; and the flood levees that protect our farms and our towns and cities.