Capitol Siege Response Shows Farmers’ Generational Divide (1)

  • National Farmers Union is first farm group to condemn violence
  • Young farmers call for strong response against Capitol event

(Updates with National Milk Producers Federation and American Farm Bureau Federation responses beginning in ninth paragraph.)

The storming of the U.S. Capitol building by a mob supporting defeated President Donald Trump drew condemnations from several farm groups and a call for others to break their silence.

“We are being complicit, which is ridiculous because we are self proclaimed patriots,” said Megan Brown, who, at 39 years old, works as a sixth-generation rancher. “We should be speaking out, saying we don’t agree with this behavior.”

“I’m incredibly disappointed in my industry right now,” she said in a direct message on Twitter Thursday morning.

Members of Congress gathered at the Capitol Wednesday afternoon to certify the 2020 presidential election results, solidifying President-elect Joe Biden‘s victory. Thousands of Trump supporters flocked to Washington to protest the validity of the votes — an incorrect claim Trump and his GOP allies pushed.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Thousands of Trump supporters storm the Capitol building, breaking windows and clashing with police, following a rally on Jan. 6, 2021.

Protesters mobbed the Capitol, brawling with federal officers and breaching security. Rioters then swarmed inside, vandalizing offices and forcing lawmakers and press to evacuate the House and Senate chambers for several hours.

‘Intimidation and Terror’

The National Farmers Union, with an office just blocks away from the Capitol, quickly decried the violence.

“These acts of intimidation and terror have no place in this country, and they cannot be condoned or brushed aside,” said Rob Larew, the group’s president, in a Wednesday statement. “This event demonstrates just how fragile democracy truly is. It doesn’t exist simply because it is written in the Constitution; it requires action on the part of every American.”

The National Young Farmers Coalition responded that it “condemns the terrorist actions which disrespected our democracy and disrupted the peaceful transition of power,” said co-executive director Martin Lemos in an emailed statement Thursday.

By Thursday evening, several other groups — including the National Milk Producers Federation and the American Farm Bureau Federation — had weighed in.

“This nation was founded on the belief that we can debate our differences without resorting to violence,” Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall said in a statement late Thursday. “We must come together, not as farmers or city dwellers or suburban families, but as Americans, and put aside the bitterness that has divided us and rally behind the principles that unite us.”

Other industry groups, such as the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the National Chicken Council, stayed quiet.

The National Pork Producers Council in an emailed statement said it was grateful the joint session of Congress was ultimately able to fulfill its duties, but it didn’t address the violence in the Capitol.

“Major groups are silent because farmers are silent, and I don’t know how the silence of farmers can be interpreted as anything other than tacit approval,” said Sarah Mock, a 27-year-old agriculture and rural issues researcher and writer who grew up on her family farm in Wyoming.

“Though Donald Trump has been touting farmers as ‘great patriots’ for the better part of the last three years, when extremists actually came to dismantle our democracy, they had nothing to say about it,” she said in a direct message on Twitter Thursday morning.

‘Senseless, Violent and Destructive’

Farm state lawmakers who found themselves in danger Wednesday swiftly offered their own denunciations.

“What occurred today at the U.S. Capitol was senseless, violent and destructive — and counter to American values,” said Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (Pa.), the new Republican leader of the House Agriculture Committee, in a statement. “This was a sad day for our nation and totally unacceptable.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) called the riot “an attack on American democracy itself.”

“This was not a demonstration of any of our protected, inalienable rights,” he said in a statement. “Those who plowed over police barricades, ignored law enforcement or desecrated our monument to representative democracy flouted the rule of law and disgraced our nation.”

The top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee, Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), summed up the events with a statement released earlier today: “A day that began with a brazen and dangerous attack on our democracy has ended with a sign of its endurance: Congress returned to work and validated the election of Joe Biden as our next president and Kamala Harris as our next vice president.”

Brown also sees a silver lining for the agriculture community.

“There’s a slow shift in agriculture happening,” she said, crediting young, progressive producers focused on social issues, such as racism and sexism.

“Our non-farming peers are starting to see some of the change we are pushing for and I’ve started seeing a return on that because consumers want to support farmers with the same principles,” Brown added.

To contact the reporter on this story: Megan U. Boyanton in Washington at mboyanton@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Robin Meszoly at rmeszoly@bgov.com; Sarah Babbage at sbabbage@bgov.com

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