OTTUMWA — Sen. Amy Klobuchar said she wants to make it easier for small farmers to continue working their land while going through bankruptcy, a process she said currently forces too many people out of the industry.
“That’s a bill that I have with Sen. Grassley,” Klobuchar said, referring to Iowa’s senior senator. “It’s an acknowledgement that this is a disaster right now.”
Klobuchar made the comments in an interview with the Courier following her speech at Hotel Ottumwa. She said small farmers are often less able to weather shocks to the industry, like this year’s widespread flooding and the droughts seen in recent years, than larger operations. Farmers may be forced into bankruptcy, but the requirements for allowing them to keep the land in production during that process are significant hurdles.
Exacerbating the issue is the fact many smaller landowners may also be young farmers just establishing themselves. In those cases, the farmers face not just the challenges of market and weather fluctuations, but also the significant investments in having the equipment they need to simply get started.
Klobuchar, who is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, represents Minnesota in the U.S. Senate. She brought her campaign to Ottumwa as part of a swing through southeast Iowa.
She said Minnesota faces many of the same challenges as Iowa, with aging farm populations and too few young farmers coming up to create their own legacies. Klobuchar would like to see programs allow lower rates or exemptions for new farmers to help them gain time to become established.
Farming isn’t the only area Klobuchar said rural areas need help with. Another bill cosponsored with Grassley seeks to address critical access hospitals for rural areas. Rural parts of the Midwest have a disproportionately low number of doctors for the number of people, leading to longer waits for treatment at greater distances. Klobuchar said it will take time to change that trend, so preserving access to emergency rooms is critical.
Klobuchar linked funding for those hospital efforts to suits against opioid manufacturers, saying those returns could provide enough to address mental health and suicide prevention as well.
The comments echoed those made during her speech, in which she told the audience Midwestern states may well hold the key to who wins the White House.
“When I head up the ticket, we’re not going to leave the Midwest behind,” she said. “We have to win in the Midwest. We have to win in places like Iowa, in places like Wisconsin, in places like Michigan.”