1985 Sept 15 News Release (Bulletin Letters)
– FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: —
Time: Tuesday, September 24 – 11 A.M.
Place: Federal Court House – Council Bluffs, Iowa
THE SHARED STATEMENT OF FATHER TOM COENEN, MON”SIGNOR PAUL CONNELLY, FATHER FRANK CORDARO, AND FATHER TOM DECARLO.
We are four rural pastors who are deeply grieved by the current economic crisis our rural people are experiencing. If things continue as they are, we believe we are seeing the last days of a way of life in rural Iowa built upon the family farm. The systematic liquidation of the family farm has been happening over the last twenty years.
Our Bishop, Maurice Dingman, claims this liquidation was a planned effort by a select group of big business and government interest. Our Bishop has made a strong case of the intentional and systematic way in which the family farm unit has been replaced by a corporate model of farming. He documents that in the early 1960’s this anti-family farm sentiment became corporate~rid governmental dogma. From then on our nation’s food production moved from a family based industry to a corporate based industry. Yet this corporate take over was not implemented without the cooperation and willingness of many farmers themselves.
In our rural communities where a strong traditional spirit of interdependence and neighborliness exist, an ethic of ‘dog eat dog’ was allowed to take control of our rural farm economies. The current economic crisis of the ’80’s has only accelerated this family farmer exodus. This exodus is taking a tragic toll in human suffering and misery. Our rural families are under a great deal of stress. Violence within farm families and the number of suicides have increased dramatically over the last couple of years. Whole communities have taken on a spirit of silence and depression. We are here today to break that silence. We are here today to do with our bodies what our political and economic structures are unwilling to do – stop the liquidation of a family farm!
Bob and Teresa Sullivan have been farming for over 30 years. They are a deacon couple in our Church and have reared 15 children. They are excellent farmers. The Sullivan’s mistake was to have five sons who wanted to get into farming at the wrong time. They are cattle people who pyramided their farming assets based on the inflated rural equity of the late 1970’s. They are just one of thousands of innocent though willing victims who took the expansion gamble with the full blessings of the agricultural industry and banking system. They are now in bankruptcy court with the prospect of losing everything they have lived for including their original homestead.
Today we are going on record that we intend to put our bodies in between the Sullivan’s farm homestead and the law that would take it away from them. By homestead we included theirorig1nal farm home, the farm buildings~ the basic farming equipment needed to stay in farming and the immediate 40 acres upon which their buildings rest.
We declare our efforts of intervention will be non-violent in nature; love based and faith motivated. We are acting on our own accord; neither Bob or Teresa Sullivan have asked us to intervene nor have they been involved in any of the planning of our intended acts of intervention.
It’s the 11th hour for the family farm in America. It’s time to break the silence and act for a future, which has hope. Today when a rural family farm or a rural business is lost we all lose. By struggling to keep the Sullivan’s on their land we are saying that every family farmer and rural business is vital for our survival. We are exposing the farming ethic, which upholds constant expansion, and maximization of profits as supreme. This ethic is immoral. It has been the ethic used to divide our communities and insure the demise of the family farmer.
We are men of faith who feel called to act out of the desperate need of our people. God bless us and use our witness in the services of Thy Kingdom.
Father Tom Coenen – Dunlap, Iowa
Monsignor Paul Connelly – Missouri Valley, Iowa
Father Frank Cordaro – Logan, Iowa
Father Tom DeCarlo – St. Thomas More Center Lake Panorama, Iowa