Bolstered by National Farmers Union (NFU) and Farm Aid, 275 family farmers are uniting this week at the U.S. Capitol to ask for emergency assistance and increased funding to address the harsh economic realities brought on by historically low prices and too high production costs.
Both organizations caution that America’s farmers and ranchers can’t afford to wait until after the November elections for relief. They are asking Congress for emergency assistance for the hardest hit farmers and ranchers; increased funding for USDA farm loan programs; and resources to provide short-term remedies for low commodity prices, to be included in the upcoming Congressional spending package for FY2017.
“Low commodity prices and high input costs have been relentless, and 2014 Farm Bill safety net programs have failed to deliver the relief needed for farmers and ranchers to recover. Many of the families who produce food for America are in danger of losing everything. The time for Congress to act is now,” said NFU President Roger Johnson.
In addition to meeting with Congressional offices, farmers also will meet with White House officials and U.S. Department of Agriculture leadership to discuss the dire situation in farm country and ask for support for farm programs at the NFU Fall Legislative Fly-In.
Net farm income for 2016 is forecasted to be 42 percent lower than it was in 2013, yet farm production expenditures were reported 4 percent higher last year compared to the same time period. Farm Aid and NFU say if meaningful relief isn’t available, this scenario, combined with the rising inability to access affordable credit, could put many farmers and ranchers out of business.
“Every week, we hear from family farmers facing these challenges on their farms. This is becoming the new normal for many farmers and ranchers across the country,” said Carolyn Mugar, Farm Aid’s Executive Director. “Farmers certainly need emergency assistance, but we have to move beyond that to a more permanent, sustainable solution.”
NFU and Farm Aid urged Congress to begin work on the next Farm Bill to provide a stronger safety net that protects family farmers and ranchers through long-term financial downturns.
The week of advocacy in Washington culminates in the annual Farm Aid concert, which takes place in Bristow, VA, on Saturday, September 17, and celebrates the crucial role of family farmers in the United States. On Thursday, September 15, Farm Aid will premier its documentary film, Homeplace Under Fire, (with link https://www.farmaid.org/our-work/farm-advocate-link/) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, followed by a discussion with key USDA officials. On Friday, Farm Aid hosts an informal gathering to connect farmers, farm advocates and activists from across the country, to share issue and campaign updates and build community.
National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.
Farm Aid’s mission is to build a vibrant, family farm-centered system of agriculture in America. Farm Aid artists and board members Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews host an annual concert to raise funds to support Farm Aid’s work with family farmers and to inspire people to choose family farm food. Since 1985, Farm Aid, with the support of the artists who contribute their performances each year, has raised more than $50 million to support programs that help farmers thrive, expand the reach of the Good Food Movement, take action to change the dominant system of industrial agriculture and promote food from family farms.
Farm Aid 2016 takes place Saturday, Sept. 17, in Bristow, Va. More information about the annual music and food festival is available at www.farmaid.org/concert.