Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Farm Aid responds to drought devastating farmland across the U.S.

JenToday, Farm Aid activated our Family Farm Disaster Fund to raise funds to provide relief for farm families whose crops and farmland are being devastated by the country’s worst drought in more than 50 years.

“Our farmers and the soil they depend on are crucial for the future of agriculture,” said Willie Nelson, Farm Aid’s founder and president. “Farm Aid works to keep every family farmer on the land, no matter what extreme conditions they face.”

With thousands of farmers coast-to-coast affected by the drought, raising funds for those in need is urgent. The Family Farm Disaster Fund allows Farm Aid to respond directly to farm families in crisis. Every dollar raised supports local farm groups, churches and rural organizations that can distribute emergency resources quickly to the farm families most in need, as well as farm groups who advocate for long-term solutions to address chronic drought and extreme weather.

“The drought of 2012 is massive, unlike anything family farmers or the nation have experienced in a long time. And there are few signs that it will let up any time soon,” said Joel Morton, Farm Aid’s farm advocate. “Every day, we hear from family farmers facing crop losses and ruined pastures due to severe heat and dryness. Farm Aid has a long history of delivering immediate help to farmers around the country; donations at this time are crucial to help farm families stay on the land.”

Small- and mid-sized family farms are especially threatened by this drought, particularly those without crop insurance. Even farmers with crop insurance will only be reimbursed for a portion of their loss. With pastures scorched and their feed crops lost, livestock and dairy farmers must purchase feed to sustain their animals, driving up their production costs. As this record drought continues and intensifies, feed costs will continue to rise and feed may become difficult to access. These small- and mid-sized farmers most at risk are the farmers who are building the local food systems that are so crucial for thriving local economies and emerging food systems.

“When family farms suffer, so do local economies,” said Morton. “We can’t afford to lose a single farmer—we must rally now to protect our farmers’ livelihoods.”

If you or your family have been affected by the drought and are seeking assistance, please contact Farm Aid at 1-800-FARM-AID (800-327-6243) or farmhelp@farmaid.org.

Click here for additional resources related to drought.

Please click here to make a donation to keep family farmers on the land during this period of drought.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Farm Aid Music Monday, Starring Kenny Chesney

MattDid you hear last week's announcement about a new performer being added to the Farm Aid 2012 lineup? That artist is Kenny Chesney and today's Music Monday post celebrates his addition. He's performed on the Farm Aid stage three times before: in 2005, 2008, and in 2010. Check out the video playlist below for three songs from Kenny Chesney's 2005 performance at Farm Aid's 20th Anniversary concert at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre in Tinley Park, Illinois on September 18.

Find more Farm Aid videos on our YouTube channel. You can also get this concert on DVD in our online store.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Francisca's Farm and Food News Roundup

Francisca border=In February 2011, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) partially deregulated Monsanto's genetically engineered Roundup Ready (RR) sugar beet. Deregulation occurred under the requirement that crop growers obtain regulatory permits and follow mandatory guidelines for growing the root crop. APHIS continued to conduct a plant pest risk assessment and consider numerous public comments. Late last week, under the advice of APHIS, the US Department of Agriculture fully deregulated the sugar beet.

The Fruit and Vegetable Program, also known as FVRx, has expanded its reach to the District of Colombia. The program was designed as a preventive measure against illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity. FVRx grants one dollar subsidies daily to buy fruits and veggies from local farmers markets. Each member of a family gets the $1 prescription so, for example, a family of five would end up getting $35 per week to spend on fresh fruits and vegetables. Currently, the Fruit and Vegetable Program is only offered in eight states. Wholesome Wave, the nonprofit organization behind the program is hoping to expand to more states. According to the organization, the Fruit and Vegetable Program provides health benefits to consumers and is profitable for farmers markets. Many consumers, farmers and doctors are rallying behind the program.

In the last several days, UK farmers have been in protest against price cuts in the dairy industry. The price cuts would allow milk processors to pay 25 pounds a liter for milk even though the cost of production is 29 pounds per liter. Following two nights of protests, the government organized a summit meeting. After much debate, dairy processors and farmers have finally reached an agreement. One of the new provisions for dairy contracts calls for processors to involve farmers in discussions before a price change occurs.

As a result of severe drought conditions, all 114 counties in Missouri have been designated as natural disaster areas. In addition to low interest emergency loans, Missouri farmers are now eligible to receive funding for water well projects. The new emergency program covers 90 percent of the cost to drill or deepen wells, with a maximum award amount of $20,000. Well production must not harm the public water supply and applications must be submitted by August 6th. For more information on the application process visit the State of Missouri website at www.mo.gov.

Experts are now calling this drought the worst in nearly half a century. Counties throughout the United States are being rapidly declared as natural disaster areas. On Wednesday alone, 76 counties were added to the list. Farmers are struggling with the dehydration of crops and livestock. The USDA expects the drought to also affect consumers, specifically in 2013. Grocery prices will soar up to a projected 4 percent. But in the meantime, small farmers and livestock farmers will bear the brunt of this drought, with lost crops that are not reimbursed by crop insurance, burnt pastures where their animals can no longer graze, and skyrocketing feed costs.

It’s fire season in the West. This year’s wildfires have been especially damaging because of their locations. Fires are erupting on grasslands and in pastures, and other areas where livestock populate. An estimated 200 cattle have died in Wyoming and about 225 in Oregon. These numbers are likely to increase as livestock are dying from injuries and illnesses sustained from the fires. In addition to dealing with the drought, farmers and ranchers must worry about saving their animals from wildfires. Transporting the animals to safer lands is not always easy, especially because emergency grazing lands are often miles away.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Farm Aid Music Monday, Starring Neil Young

MattToday's Music Monday is a special one for me, as it's from my first Farm Aid concert and is still the most vivid Farm Aid memory that I've got. Our 2008 concert was in Mansfield, Massachusetts, which was great for me because it meant more of my friends and family were able to attend the show (since our office is in the Boston area). The day itself was a whirlwind of activity, but I was immediately impressed with how hard everyone on staff worked without complaints—everyone just did their job and finished what had to be done. After many long hours spent in a trailer backstage making sure everyone at home could enjoy the show with our live webcast, I was finally able to sneak out in time to watch Neil Young's performance.

I hope to post more videos from Farm Aid 2008 soon, but for now I'll at least share Neil Young's cover of "A Day in the Life," which was originally written by The Beatles. It closed out his set with tremendous ferocity and thankfully "Old Black," his 1953 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop, has recovered. Watching this now takes me back to that September night where I remember the power of the sounds blowing into my face and sending a chill down my back. I hope you enjoy it like I did.

Find more Farm Aid videos on our YouTube channel.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Francisca's Farm and Food Roundup

Francisca border=The USDA has announced improvements to its disaster designation process that will deliver faster and more flexible aid to farmers and ranchers. The new revisions to Secretarial disaster designation procedures are expected to decrease processing time for devastated counties by 40 percent. Also, as a result of the revisions, 996 counties in the United States will be classified as natural disaster areas. If USDA requirements are met, all farmers and ranchers residing in these areas will be eligible for low interest emergency loans.

Due to ongoing severe drought conditions, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) classified 39 additional counties as disaster areas. In total, 1, 297 counties across 29 states are eligible for drought aid. According to the government statistics, 60 percent of the lower 48 states are now affected by drought conditions. Also, as a result of the dry heat, corn and soybean prices have soared. Experts expect the rise in grain prices to cause an increase in meat and poultry prices, as well.

It has been nearly a decade since New York City’s last family farm closed. In the last several years, determined farmers have transformed the state’s agriculture scene. Today, South Bronx, New York is the home of America’s largest and most successful rooftop farm. City officials are raving about the new farm operations. Rooftop farms are expected to aid in sewage issues by capturing gallons of storm water, alleviating pressure on the sewer system. The aerial farms will also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions because harvesting produce in the boroughs does not require much truck transport. There are, of course, some challenges facing rooftop farmers, like finding a roof strong enough to support their crops. However, farmers are optimistic as are the many for-profit companies that are investing in aerial farms now more than ever.

Recent studies reveal a shortage in young veterinarians willing to care for farm animals. Several students studying to become vets prefer city jobs, where the pay is steady and the work more glamorous. The American Veterinary Medical Association reports that only 17 percent of all veterinarians work with farm animals. In King County, Seattle that averages to one vet for every 1,800 animals. The association notes that the lack of veterinarians will lead to less surveillance of diseased animals coming into the country. The federal government has established a three-year program, with a pay-off of $25,000 per year, for new veterinarians working on rural farms. Federal officials and agriculturists hope that this program will produce a new wave of veterinarians who are willing to service food-supply animals.

Map image is a work of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in the public domain.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Farm Aid Music Monday, Celebrating Woody Guthrie

MattThis is the first Music Monday that shines a spotlight on an artist who never performed at Farm Aid. But Farm Aid concerts have featured the songs of Woody Guthrie, whose 100th birthday would have been Saturday. I first heard Guthrie's songs in school growing up, but didn't know much about him or the influence he'd have on so many musicians over the years. Below are just a few of the times Guthrie's songs have been played at Farm Aid shows.

Jeff Tweedy, of Wilco, performed at Farm Aid's 25th concert in Milwaukee in 2010. Among his songs that day was a cover of Woody Guthrie's "Remember the Mountain Bed"

Way back at Farm Aid III in 1987, "This Land is Your Land" closed out the show. Woodie's son Arlo took the lead and was backed up by Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Neil Young and what looks like dozens of others on stage.

"This Land is Your Land" and Arlo Guthrie appeared back on the Farm Aid stage in 2001, this time at the beginning of the TV broadcast of the concert. Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Martina McBride and more help out.

I learned a lot about Woody Guthrie from this recent episode of NPR's Fresh Air, if you're interested in learning more about him, I'd recommend checking it out.

Find more Farm Aid videos on our YouTube channel.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Farm Bill passes House Ag Committee

HildeEarlier this week, the House Agriculture Committee passed its version of the Farm Bill, which now awaits debate on the House floor. (You may recall the Senate’s Farm Bill passed back in June).

After an intense day of markups and much hard work on the part of Farm Aid partner organizations working the Hill, there were some notable gains for family farmers and good food, including an amendment to enhance farm to school programs in rural areas, another to broaden low income access to Community Support Agriculture shares, and the authorization of microloans for beginning farmers and ranchers.

However, there were some huge losses too. Some R E A L L Y maddening losses that compromise family farm livelihoods, our natural resource base and public health. These include the failure to enact conservation measures that would protect native grass and prairie-lands from destruction (known as SodSaver) and the complete unraveling of critical provisions to protect poultry and livestock producers from abusive market practices. Furthermore, a number of riders were snuck into the bill that will effectively give rubber-stamp approval of genetically engineered crops.

Obviously, much work remains to ensure the 2012 Farm Bill provides opportunities for family farmers to grow the good food that will sustain us now and into the future.

Next up, the House’s Farm Bill draft will go to the floor for a full vote, most likely in the next week or so. If it passes, then the House and Senate conference together to reconcile the two drafts before sending a final bill along to the President for his final signature.

Stay tuned! Your input matters, and this fight’s not over yet. We’ll keep you informed of ways to get involved as the process continues to unfold.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Francisca's Farm and Food Roundup

Francisca border=For years, health advocates have pressured the FDA to regulate the amount of antibiotics fed to farm animals, which consume about 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the United States, of which two-thirds are similar or identical to drugs used in human medicine. Due to overuse of antibiotics, several germs have adapted and become immune to them, giving rise to ‘superbugs.’ Despite the growing amount of evidence to support this concern, the FDA has reacted mildly, issuing voluntary guidelines that called on farmers to be “judicious” with antibiotics, limiting their use to ensuring animal health.

Just a few months ago, agriculture specialists predicted that America would see one of its largest corn crops in 2012. Nationwide, farmers planted a reported 96.4 million acres of corn, hoping to make a decent profit. But unexpected droughts have paralyzed some of America’s prominent corn producing states, causing the the price of corn to rise, which will make it difficult for livestock farmers to afford to feed their animals.

Like Farm Aid did in our 2009 report, a New York Times article touts the ability of family farmers and local food systems to stimulate local economies!

Family farm advocates have launched a program designed to add New England dairy farms into the fair trade movement, which ensures that the producers of products receive a fair price for their product. With New England dairy farms at risk of going out of business in our increasingly consolidated dairy industry, the program seeks to educate people about family owned farms. The hope is that consumers will pay a premium for local dairy products to ensure that farmers receive fair wages and can stay in business.

Environmentalists, scientists, and industry and government officials have settled the eight-year debate on salmon farming regulations. The new bylaws seek to provide regulations for many things, including the use of antibiotics and pesticides. Many compromises were made to reach final decisions and representatives admit that the standards are not perfect, but everyone believes that improvements to the environment and industry will result from the regulations.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Farm Aid Music Monday, Starring Dave Matthews & Farm Aid 2012 News

MattToday's Music Monday features Dave Matthews, in honor of him announcing details on Farm Aid 2012. This year's concert will take place at Hersheypark Stadium on September 22 in Pennsylvania! Dave will be performing with Tim Reynolds and joining him on stage will be fellow Farm Aid board artists Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp. The lineup also includes Jack Johnson, ALO, Pegi Young & The Survivors and Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real. Watch the Farm Aid 2012 Trailer below and then enjoy a video of Dave performing "Too Much" at Farm Aid 2003.

And for even more Dave Matthews content, check out this interview released today with news about the concert and his connection with Farm Aid's message:

Matthews said that after a Farm Aid concert in Virginia, a couple hours from his farm, he found himself being stopped on the street and thanked by farmers who had been helped by the organization.

"It really does affect people, it has an effect on farmers — that's the part that's really hard for me to impart," he said. "Because when I go state to state, and see all these people, all these local farmers who come in who have been affected by the efforts of Farm Aid, who have been on the edge and been helped by the efforts of Farm Aid, it just makes you feel like ... you're doing something worthwhile."

Visit our website for more information on Farm Aid 2012, including how to get the best tickets.

Find more Farm Aid videos on our YouTube channel.

Friday, July 06, 2012

FDA Falls Short in Strengthening Measures to End Overuse of Antibiotics on Industrial Farms

Hilde border=The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just issued draft measures to limit the overuse of antibiotics on industrial livestock operations or “factory farms.” This is big news! By eliminating the overuse and misuse of antibiotics and reducing the prevalence of antibiotic resistance, we are saving antibiotics and allowing them to remain effective for treating sick people and animals.

While the action of the FDA is a welcome step forward, the guidance documents fall short.

The agency has failed to adequately address the massive overuse of the drugs to compensate for the effects of overcrowded and unsanitary conditions--uses sometimes referred to as "disease prevention."

The FDA is accepting comments on these documents until July 12 – next Thursday. Let the FDA know that they should work in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help livestock producers first solve crowding and sanitation problems by changing practices before resorting to antibiotics. The FDA also needs to provide a plan for how they will monitor antibiotic use and resistance rates to measure the effectiveness of these measures.

Antibiotics have a place on the farm — when they're needed to treat sick animals — not to promote a system that puts us all at risk. Don't let the irresponsible use of antibiotics continue to give industrial factory farms an unfair advantage over family farmers who manage their animals more responsibly.

Want to get involved? Write to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, asking FDA to close the loopholes in these documents so that life-saving antibiotics are no longer misused on industrial farms. In your letter, refer to Guidance 209 (Docket No. FDA-2010-D-0094), Guidance 213 (FDA-2011-D-0889) and Veterinary Feed Directive; Draft Text for Proposed Regulation (Docket No. FDA-2010-N-0155). All correspondence must be received by July 12th. Send your letter to: Center for Veterinary Medicine, Communications Staff (CVM), Food and Drug Administration, 7519 Standish Place, HFV-12, Rockville, MD 20855.

You can also visit the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming website to submit a comment via the web.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Introducing Farm Aid's new co-op, Francisca Fils-Aime!

Francisca border=I have lived in America for twenty years as a Haitian immigrant. Although I obtained citizenship almost two years ago, I still feel like a foreigner. I did not think much about my disconnect from American culture until I entered college. I am currently making slow progress towards a Human Services and International Affairs combined degree. It was during a French Culture course that I started to question the notion of national identity. What does it mean to be French? Or to be American?

From what I have learned, French identity is deeply connected to the land. Advertisements, television shows, and even political campaigns reflect pride in the country’s soil. Farmers are regarded with high esteem because they use the land to create quality products. The general population is quick to rally behind farmers when legislation issues arise. Observing the relationship between French citizens and their farmers led me to question how we interact with our agriculturalists here in the United States.

Although the family farm can be credited with laying the groundwork for present-day American values, there does not appear to be much reverence for the farmer. On a daily basis I am bombarded with advertisements for technology’s newest innovations: beauty products, weight loss pills, and reality television! I cannot remember the last time I saw an advertisement promoting the family farm. We are relying on technology more and more. Scientists are striving to perfect lab-grown meat. I am not sure where that innovation would leave future farmers.

The optimist in me believes that American identity does not rest solely on technological advancements. I am hoping that enough people still value family farms. I have joined the Farm Aid organization to find out for certain.