It's Time to Stand Up With Family Farmers

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Common Dreams

It's Time to Stand Up With Family Farmers

Farm Aid's annual benefit concert, Farm Aid 2013, took place at Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, NY on Saturday, September 21.

Every year, come harvest season, we gather for the annual Farm Aid concert. Artists, farmers, activists and eaters, we come together to recognize the crucial importance of family farmers. We take account of how far we've come and we renew our spirits for the fights ahead.

We stand with family farmers.

This strength is what's grown the Good Food Movement. Today, we're at our strongest. More people than ever are seeking out family farm food. Businesses sourcing from family farmers are searching for new farmers because demand exceeds supply. Entrepreneurs are making new connections between eaters and farmers. Community organizations and passionate volunteers are bringing good food to neighborhoods that need it most. Together, all of these people are building communities centered on a family farm economy. They're linking eaters with farmers, building relationships and nourishing bodies and souls. Their actions are transforming food and agriculture, from the ground up.

But even still, a handful of corporations dominate our food system.

There are good folks in Congress who are fighting for a family farm food system that benefits family farmers and all Americans. But they're blocked by a majority that lets corporate power, partisan politics and big money get in the way of progress. Their votes have reinforced a dominant, chemical-dependent food system that is harmful to our environment, our health and local economies, while cutting billions from nutrition and food programs for people who need food.

In recent years the Good Food Movement has forged ahead, including some progress made in the last farm bill. This movement has created more opportunities to support and promote family farm agriculture. But without meaningful action now on farm policy, those gains and more will be lost. Without better farm policies, family farmers will not have the chance to compete in a fair marketplace and earn a living. Conservation programs, so crucial in a changing climate, will be compromised. New and beginning farmers will lose access to the credit, resources and land they need to start their farm businesses. Programs for underserved farmers will disappear. Innovations happening right now on the farm to grow renewable energy will be lost. And industrial ag stands to win if efforts to reform wasteful farm subsidy programs are ignored.

Today, as the minutes tick down to another farm bill deadline, people in towns and cities everywhere are taking matters into their own hands. They're standing up with family farmers and insisting on food that is best for them and their families. They're seeking out food from family farms at farmers markets, grocery stores and restaurants. They are organizing to change the food served in schools, hospitals and public institutions. They're making their voice heard and voting for family farm food every way they can.

Our message is hard to miss. America needs family farmers. Congress, can you hear us?

Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson is a songwriter, musician, and activist. He is also founder and president of Farm Aid, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to support family farmers.

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