IA-02: No, Rita Hart Doesn’t Want To ‘Shut Down Family Farms’

Rita Hart, the Democratic nominee in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, is pushing back against her opponent’s first ad of the general election cycle, refuting the claim she supports legislation to “shut down family farms in Iowa.”

Mariannette Miller-Meeks’ campaign released an ad Tuesday centered on a bill introduced in the U.S. Senate by Cory Booker. The 30-second digital ad tries to tie Hart to the legislation Republicans claim would “take over Iowa agriculture,” eliminate family farms and implement “new rules, red tape and limits on production.”

“The worst part? Rita Hart agrees with them,” the narrator says. “Politician Rita Hart says she supports the ‘principles’ in the left-wing bill.”

Hart’s team disputes that characterization and released a video on Tuesday in response to Miller-Meeks’ ad.

“My opponent wants you to believe that I want to shut down family farms. I guess she thinks I’ll start with the one behind me,” Hart says, gesturing to the land her family farms. “This is our sole source of income and I would not support any efforts to shut down this farm, or any other family’s farm. I know we’re getting close to Election Day, but let’s get real.”

Miller-Meeks’ ad begins with the heads of “East Coast liberals” Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Booker popping out of a corn field, in an effort to tie Hart with the nationally known Democrats. If Hart is elected in November, she will serve in the House of Representatives, not the Senate. Given Hart’s reputation as a moderate Democrat, not to mention her lifelong ties to farming, Miller-Meeks’ efforts to label her a radical socialist are a stretch.

The premise for the ad comes from a July 7 Facebook Live forum Hart participated in with the Iowa Farmers Union, which the Quad-City Times then reported on.

Iowa Farmers Union president Aaron Lehman, relaying a question from a person participating in the forum, said: “The next question comes to us regarding the livestock industry. We know that in Iowa we have a large concentration of industrial CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations). The question comes: Will you support Sen. Cory Booker’s Farm System Reform Act? And that includes a moratorium on CAFOs and invests in a just transition for farmers.”

After briefly losing connection to Hart’s video feed, Lehman said, “The question I was referring to had to deal with confined animal feeding operations. We know that there is a large concentration of industrial confined animal feeding operations in Iowa. The specific question asks about Sen. Cory Booker’s bill, the Farm System Reform Act of 2019. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with that specific piece of legislation, but it (the questioner) wants to know what should be done to address the problems associated with industrial CAFOs.”

Booker has said the purpose of his bill is to “revitalize independent family farm agriculture and ensure a level playing field for all farmers and ranchers.”

Hart, who appeared unfamiliar with the bill, did not say whether she supports Booker’s legislation. Instead, she talked about how “consolidation of the market” has rewarded large farming operations and “displaced” family farms.

Here is the full quote: “This is an issue that is near and dear to the hearts of anybody who works in agriculture. We have got to listen to the people that are telling us that small farmers are having a harder and harder time staying in business. And there’s many reasons for that, but one of the biggest reasons is the consolidation of the market. In that consolidation, many of our family farms have been displaced. Instead, we have larger and larger facilities that are more and more controlled by out-of-state entities. Again, I am very much interested in working on any kind of plan that promotes a different way of going about that so that independent family farms can continue to provide a way of life for so many families and contribute in a real way to feeding the world.”

From this answer, the Quad-City Times, in a July 7 article, asserts Hart “agreed with the principles of legislation to reform concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) if she won the Nov. 3 general election and that she was interested in learning more about the bill that will make those changes.”

However, as you can read for yourself, at no point did Hart say the word “principles” or make much of a reference to the Booker legislation itself. Miller-Meek’s ad specifically states, “Rita Hart says she supports the ‘principles’ in the left-wing bill,” but all they are quoting is the Quad City Times’ interpretation of that response, not Hart herself.

Hart is a former state senator and teacher from Wheatland, in Eastern Iowa. This is the first time she has run for Congress. Miller-Meeks, an Ottumwa physician, is seeking to represent the 2nd District for the fourth time.


By Elizabeth Meyer
Posted 8/5/20

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