How USDA barriers leave immigrant farmers and ranchers behind

With dirt crunching under his feet, Max Chavez trekked across his 10 acres of land, grasping wooden stakes in his hands. They were marked with his handwriting: “Bell pepper” on one, “green beans” on another. Every few paces, he stuck a stake in the soil — marking where his harvest would sprout months later.

Chavez grew up farming in Mexico. He moved to California at 13 years old, and then to Iowa in 1999. After planting and pruning grapevines around the state, he saved enough money to rent land, growing tomatoes, zucchini, peppers and more.

When asked what it takes to run his farm in Carlisle, named Sunny Valley Vegetables, 55-year-old Chavez had a quick response: “Money.”

Between record-high farm production expenses and declining farm income, producers are facing higher financial burdens than ever before.

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