In advance of the annual Farm Aid benefit concert for family farmers in Raleigh, N.C., on Saturday (Sept. 24), the organization revealed plans for “a major farmer mobilization in Washington” in March 2023 to advocate for federal support of climate resilient agriculture.
The march set for the week of March 6 would be “a mobilization the likes of which we have not seen since the 1970s, tentatively called Farmers for Climate, a rally for resilience,” announced Farm Aid cultural impact director Michael Stewart Foley during a live-streamed press conference that preceded the concert at the Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek.
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Farm Aid co-founder and board member John Mellencamp, participating in the press conference, recalled when “[Willie Nelson] and I made the effort” to testify before a Congressional subcommittee in the 1980s on behalf of family farmers. And he left convinced that “the government … doesn’t care about you, doesn’t care about anything but greed.”
“So it’s going to take good people like you,” Mellencamp told the audience of farmers and activists at the pre-concert event. “I’m going to come to Washington, D.C., because politics today in the United States has gotten so far out of hand. We’ll get a school bus and we’ll all go down together.”
The mobilization plan results from discussions among “a coalition of 35 farm, food, climate [and] social justice organizations that are actively working on this,” said Foley, citing Farm Aid’s alliance with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
“Farm Aid hears farmer’s voices practically every day all year long,” he said. “What we need for the Congress to hear those voices. It is especially critical now because Congress is starting to draft the next Farm Bill.” That legislation, passed every five years, determines federal funding of a vast array of agricultural programs.
“Congress needs to get the message that farmers are counting on a Farm Bill that delivers climate solutions — climate solutions that center racial justice, that address on-farm climate challenges and prioritize what works for family farmers,” Foley said.
“So to make sure that Congress gets this message, farmers are going to deliver it in person, peacefully, I might add,” Foley said. “Over three days the week of March 6, farmers are going to march, they are going to rally — and we will be there with them. There will be music. We hope some of the artists who come to Farm Aid every year will join us.”
An earlier era of activism by family farmers, who were facing foreclosure, resulted in “tractor-cades” on state capitals nationwide in late 1977, followed in early 1978 by a demonstration that drew an estimated 50,000 farmers to Washington. One of the leaders of that movement, longtime Farm Aid supporter David Senter, was in the audience as Foley made his announcement.