Willie Nelson & Farm Aid Point To Family Farms As Critical To U.S. Economic Recovery

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Today, on the eve of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Summit of Rural America in Hillsboro, MO, Farm Aid released its report, "Rebuilding America's Economy with Family Farm-Centered Food Systems," making the case for the critical role family farmers can play in U.S. economic recovery efforts.

During a press briefing, Farm Aid President Willie Nelson showcased family farms as essential to jump-starting rural economies and contributing to the revitalization of our national economy. Small and mid-sized family farms are at the root of growing local and regional food systems, yet they are also the farms most at risk in this economic climate. Family farmers and advocates from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and Shepherd's Grain joined Nelson in calling on federal and rural leaders to pay more attention to the fiscal potential inherent in small and mid-sized farmers and to develop and fund policies to transform U.S. agriculture into a system that fosters innovation and economic growth.

"At Farm Aid, we've worked for family farmers for 25 years because when family farmers are on the land, growing good food and creating jobs, their communities are doing well, too," said Nelson. "We need our leaders in Washington and in rural America to understand that family farmers are the backbone of our country, the first rung on the economic ladder. Keeping family farmers on the land and bringing new people to farming are common-sense approaches to addressing the economic problems we're all facing. We can all benefit if family farmers are part of the solution."

Farm Aid sent letters to President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, sharing evidence that demonstrates the value of the contributions family farmers make to local and regional economies. For example, in regional food systems where farmers can sell their products to consumers for a fair price, research suggests that money is most likely to be spent within the region, boosting income and generating jobs. In addition, the work of these family farmers safeguards our soil and water, improves public health and increases accessibility to fresh, healthy food.

"The Obama administration has begun to invest in small and mid-sized farmers, which is good news for the economy," said Alicia Harvie, Farm Aid program manager and report author. "Unfortunately, the very farmers that can help revive our economy -- small and mid-sized farmers -- are in jeopardy because of tightening credit, volatile markets and rising production costs. Tomorrow's National Summit of Rural America has the potential to be a historic turning point for how we grow food in this country. We can grow in ways that increase wealth for communities and promote health for all Americans; we hope the outcomes from this meeting are in line with this vision."

To learn more about family farmers' role in revitalizing local and regional economies, visit www.farmaid.org/es.

For 25 years, Farm Aid has worked to build a vibrant, family farm-centered system of agriculture in America. Farm Aid artists and board members 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 farmed food. Since 1985, Farm Aid has raised more than $36 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. For updates about "Farm Aid 25: Growing Hope for America," visit www.farmaid.org and follow Farm Aid at www.twitter.com/farmaid.



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