Bernie Sanders, candidate for the 2020 Democratic Presidential nomination, attended a forum on regenerative organic agriculture held by Organic Farmers Association, a national farmer membership organization sponsored by Rodale Institute.

View a recording of the livestream here.

On December 5th, Senator Bernie Sanders spoke to an audience of over 75 organic farmers at a forum in Story City, Iowa. The event was hosted by Organic Farmers Association and Iowa Organic Association, focusing on the issues facing family farmers in the Midwest and beyond.

As the sponsor of Organic Farmers Association, Rodale Institute is committed to engaging policymakers on the role of organic agriculture in the legislative and regulatory spheres, ensuring that organic farmers have a seat at the decision-making table.

The event comes in advance of the 2020 Iowa caucus in a state that is heavily populated by farmers and where agriculture is the leading industry. In the most recent USDA survey, Iowa ranked fifth in the nation for the total number of certified organic farms.

Senator Sanders was given 3 minutes to outline his agricultural policy and how it incorporates regenerative organic strategies. Farmers in attendance were then given the opportunity to ask questions vetted by the moderators.

Senator Sanders, whose stated agricultural policy platform includes strengthening enforcement of the organic standards as well as incentives for beginning and disadvantaged farmers to transition to more sustainable practices, emphasized the role that regenerative organic agriculture will play in mitigating climate change, bolstering family farms, and a host of other issues central to the 2020 campaign.

“If the agricultural community can be aggressive in maintaining good soil that will absorb carbon, that will be an enormous contribution to fighting climate change,” Sanders stated. “We should be prepared to provide assistance for that.”

From left to right: Senator Bernie Sanders listens to Kate Mendenhall, Director of OFA, and Francis Thicke, owner of Radiance Dairy, welcome guests to the forum.

The forum was moderated by Francis Thicke, owner of Radiance Dairy near Fairfield, Iowa, and Kate Mendenhall, Director of Organic Farmers Association and owner of Okoboji Organics in Okoboji, Iowa.

Thicke holds a Ph.D. in soil fertility and has served on the National Organic Standards Board as well as holding many other positions. Mendenhall has served on numerous advisory boards both nationally and within Iowa.

Mendenhall emphasized the significance of introducing regenerative organic agriculture into the policy conversation with forums like this one.

“It is critical that we push our elected officials, and those that hope to be elected, on how they will incorporate regenerative organic agriculture into their administrations,” said Mendenhall. “As we face more crises in climate, health, nutrition, and environmental degradation, organic farmers need to have a seat at the table in order to bring solutions.”

Questions from attending farmers included how a Sanders administration would mitigate climate change by incentivizing adoption of regenerative organic practices on family farms, ensure fair pricing to protect small farms, and protect against organic fraud that undercuts the domestic organic market.

Senator Sanders underscored the importance of advancing regenerative organic agriculture and ending harmful practices like factory farming in the face of climate change and the decline of rural America. As voters become more conscious of their choices’ effect on the planet, as well as our dire climate situation, they’re turning to candidates that project clear strategies to mitigate environmental harm.

In his responses, Sanders additionally outlined the need to get more young people into farming, to break up agribusiness conglomerates that hurt small family farmers, and maintain strong organic standards. Sanders also committed to appointing a Secretary of Agriculture that supports family farms and organic agriculture.

“If I am elected,” Sanders promised, “family-based agriculture and organic agriculture will have a friend in the White House.”

The event was livestreamed by the Sanders campaign. The public can view a recording of the livestream here.

Presidential candidates Vice President Biden, Congresswoman Gabbard, Mayor Buttigieg, Senators Booker, Harris, Klobuchar, and Warren, as well as Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang were also invited to participate in the forum.

Find out more about Rodale Institute’s research on organic agriculture’s impact on climate change, the farmer crisis, and how we prioritize training beginning farmers for careers in regenerative farming.

Want to learn about other Presidential candidates’ positions on organic agriculture? Read our blog post “Election 2020: Farming and the Environment.”