Early in the morning, a small group of protesters armed with a bullhorn gathered across the street from the event hall where today’s Iowa Ag Summit is being staged. PETA protesters dressed as pigs mingled with activists unhappy about the influence of money in politics, but most of the protesters were Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement members. Rod Wilson, a farmer from Springville, Iowa, said he started protesting against cheap commodity prices in the 1960s and things have only gotten worse.
“This is not about bad crop farmers. This is about crop farming being destroyed in Iowa. This is about destruction of the livestock system as well where we have only four corporations, nationally, that own our hogs,” Wilson said and protesters began responding with: “That ain’t right.”
Two police cruisers were positioned to provide a wall of separation between the protest zone and the crowd entering the presidential forum. The protesters chanted slogans criticizing agribusiness mogul Bruce Rastetter, the event’s host. Barbara Kalbach of Dexter, Iowa, grabbed the megaphone and ridiculed the huge John Deere tractor positioned near the entrance to the event hall.
“As a family farmer, I spend tens of thousands of dollars at John Deere every year and John Deere might want to think twice about the remaining family farmers in the state of Iowa, but we’re going to remind him, aren’t we?” she said, before leading a chant. “Iowa, yes. Rastetter, no.”
Once the Ag Summit was underway, a protester stood up as Governor Terry Branstad began his welcoming message, saying the event was “all about money…and the collapse of farming.” The crowd started to applaud as the man was escorted out by security, then Branstad restarted his speech.
“Well, it’s a beautiful day here in the heartland of America. Welcome!” Branstad said and the crowd cheered.
At five past nine this morning, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was the first of nine likely presidential candidates to take the stage to field questions about ag-related issues. His appearance was also interrupted by protesters.