The president of the Iowa Farmers Union says a few corporations are gaining more control over growing, processing, marketing and delivering our food. Jana Linderman, of Cedar Rapids, says concentration in the ag industry is hurting rural economies and the environment while driving independent family farmers off the land.

“It cuts into their ability to market their product in a competitive way,” Linderman says. “A lot of my growers are turning more and more to local markets and small-scale processing for that reason because that’s the only way for them to get a fair price for their labor.”

Linderman says they’re not huge, but those local markets provide farmers with a niche opportunity for getting their products to consumers. “The bigger challenge is finding local processers that are available to do that,” she says. “Of course, a lot of them have to turn to state-inspected facilities which limits some of their marketing availability but it’s a good opportunity, especially for our beginning farmers.”

Tyson Foods recently sold its poultry facilities in Mexico and Brazil to Pilgrim’s Pride and JBS. Linderman says Tyson’s recent acquisition of Hillshire Brands is another worry. “It’s very concerning,” she says. “There’s already so much concentration, so few processors for our meat producers, any kind of livestock production, it’s not just poultry, it’s everything. Any further concentration in that sector is concerning to us.” Linderman says the Iowa Farmers Union wants the U.S. Justice Department to thoroughly review the proposed Tyson-Hillshire merger.

(Reporting by Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton)