Monday, June 22, 2009

Farm Aid meets with the Secretary of Agriculture

JenLast week Farm Aid had the opportunity to meet with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. The USDA shares many priorities in common with Farm Aid and so far has demonstrated a commitment to family farms and recognition of their importance to our nation's economic recovery.

President Obama's rural plan starts with ensuring economic opportunity for family farmers, with goals to guarantee a strong safety net for family farmers, prevent anticompetitive behavior against family farms, regulate factory farms, encourage organic and sustainable agriculture, encourage young people to become farmers, and support local and regional food systems among other things. In its first six months, the USDA has made tremendous strides on these goals, from assisting farmers struggling with tight credit markets with direct farm operating loans (which went to 2,636 farmers, about half of whom were beginning farmers!) to demonstrating a commitment to integrate organic throughout the USDA, to instituting Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) to help consumers understand from where their food comes, to committing to resolve the black farmers discrimination lawsuit that has plagued the USDA for years.

In addition to offering our cooperation, collaboration and resources to the USDA to help build a family farm-centered system of agriculture, we were able to discuss the current dairy crisis with the Secretary. Here at Farm Aid we're hearing from struggling dairy farmers on a daily basis. On our hotline, the total number of calls coming from dairy farmers has increased nearly 500% as compared to last year. We are dedicated to advocating on their behalf as best we can.

We presented our petition to the Secretary and discussed the issue at length, including options that may help end the crisis and pay farmers a fair price for their milk, based on the cost of production. The Secretary demonstrated a keen awareness of the issue, comparing this crisis to that of the 1980s, which forced thousands of farmers off the land.

While we didn't come away from our meeting with a commitment from USDA to do something, we are encouraged by Vilsack's knowledge of the crisis and empathy for dairy farmers. This meeting opened the wires of communication to the USDA and both Farm Aid and USDA are committed to continued dialogue. In the meantime, we will continue to explore other avenues by which we might come to a solution. As always, we'll keep you posted.

To read Farm Aid's press release about the USDA meeting, click here.

3 comments:

  1. Anonymous4:42 PM

    We are dairy farmers and was wondering how much longer do we have to wait for help? Dont they get it? We dont have months.
    My mom was getting the same price for her milk as i am today back in 1970 and paying for her feed 65.00 a ton. i am paying well over 300.00 a ton. i pay to have my feed hauled in, pay for my milk to be hauled out. Vets are sky high. Equipment is over priced.
    It is affecting everyone we deal with. When the farmers dont get anything for their milk we stop buying. We will fix instead of buying new. When we get a fair price we spend it in the locally not for a fancy vaction on an island.

    Do me a favor : When you get your paycheck take 1/2 of it put it away for several months . Try paying all your bills. Maybe you are luck your boss pays your health care. See how it feels. But you are lucky at least you have something to put away. We dont.

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  2. Anonymous9:32 AM

    Where I am the dairymen drive the most expensive cars and live in the biggest houses. If a small farm comes up for sale the dairymen buy it to grow more feed so they can increase the herd from 1000 cows to maybe five thousand. Perhaps if there was a way to support the small dairy and not the five thousand cow dairys, I would be for some kind of government help, but I don't receive such support from the government in my fruit farm so I don't see why they should bail out the MEGA dairymen.

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  3. Anonymous8:16 AM

    We are dairy farmers in PA and I am wondering too ~ When is our help coming ?? We can't hold on much longer. We are friends of Rep. Glenn Thompson and I have written to him constantly about the terrible siuation farmers are in right now. I know he is doing everything he can to help us. He asked me if he could read one of my letters at the Agriculture hearing. I hope someone is listening to the family farmers cries for fairness for our milk price !

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