America’s farmers got here to Washington, D.C., greater than 40 years in the past to avoid wasting their farms. On Tuesday (March 7), a brand new technology of farmers, ranchers, farmworkers and activists got here to the nation’s capital to avoid wasting the planet.
John Mellencamp, co-founder of Farm Help, sang Tuesday for these gathered earlier than they marched up Pennsylvania Avenue to the U.S. Capitol constructing, calling for Congress to take motion on local weather change within the forthcoming Farm Invoice.
“Here’s all I can say – keep slugging,” stated Mellencamp, recalling how he and Willie Nelson and Neil Younger fashioned Farm Help in 1985 to help household farmers — a dedication they’ve sustained for 4 a long time, joined by Farm Help board members Dave Matthews and Margo Value.
“We’ve been slugging since 1985 and let’s keep slugging,” stated Mellencamp. “Let’s try to improve the quality of the food that we eat, the air that we breathe and the people that we are.”
Taking the stage noon at Freedom Park, Mellencamp appeared on the crowd earlier than him and remarked: “The faces are much younger than they used to be. And I think that’s great that there are younger people trying to improve the planet and the food that we eat. So it’s up to you guys to lead the way.”
With that, Mellencamp performed a spare, acoustic rendition of “Rain on the Scarecrow,” his harrowing 1985 tune concerning the farm foreclosures disaster that led to the creation of Farm Help.
Rain on the scarecrow / blood on the plow
This land fed a nation / this land made me proud
And son, I’m simply sorry there’s no legacy for you now
Farm Help’s personal legacy is the rising consciousness, because the mid-Nineteen Eighties, of the significance of a nationwide system of agriculture that values household farmers, good meals, soil and water, and robust communities.
Lately, there additionally has been an growing consciousness that industrial agriculture practiced on massive company farms is contributing to the local weather disaster. In a report in August 2021, the Nationwide Sources Protection Council said that industrial agriculture is a “significant source” of carbon within the ambiance.
The farmers and activists in D.C. championed what is called regenerative farming, agriculture strategies that may maintain carbon within the soil, improve biodiversity and assist mitigate local weather change.
Farm Help, with its annual live shows every September, stands out as the highest-profile group drawing consideration to the state of American agriculture — and Willie Nelson is actually the nation’s best-known champion of household farmers. However this week’s gathering dramatically demonstrated that the breadth and scope of the nation’s farm motion transcends Farm Help.
The Rally for Resistance: Farmers for Local weather Motion was organized underneath the umbrella of the Nationwide Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and concerned some 2 dozen activist organizations and greater than 30 delegations of farmers from throughout the nation who converged on Washington to make their voices heard.
On Wednesday, members within the rally are slated to foyer particular person lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
Plans for this rally have been revealed on the Farm Help pageant in Raleigh, N.C., in September and solely reported by Billboard. The spark for the gathering is the present debate over the contents of the Farm Invoice, the multi-part, multibillion-dollar laws that’s handed by Congress about each 5 years and has a large affect on how the nation’s meals is grown. The latest Farm Invoice was handed in 2018 and expires this 12 months.
In September, Farm Help joined greater than 150 organizations in co-signing a letter asking President Biden “to weigh in on the next Farm Bill and demand that Congress build even further on the administration’s actions to date to reduce economic inequality; bridge the nation’s racial divides; end hunger; confront the climate crisis; improve nutrition and food safety; and protect and support farmers, workers, and communities,” wrote Farm Help communications director Jennifer Fahy.
The night earlier than Mellencamp’s efficiency, supporters gathered at Luther Place Memorial Church on Logan Circle, a website of social activism because it was inbuilt 1873. Philip Barker, a Black farmer and longtime activist from North Carolina, summed up the main target of the times of motion: farmer-led local weather options, racial justice within the Farm Invoice, and “communities over corporations.”
Periods in the course of the rally started with land acknowledgements, statements recognizing that the land upon which the nation’s capital was constructed was taken from indigenous individuals. Different audio system addressed the actual hardships that BIPOC farmers have skilled via a long time of U.S. farm coverage. And nonetheless others referred to as for immigration reform as a solution to tackle the continual scarcity of labor on America’s farms. All through, the voices and crowd chants in Spanish testified to the altering demographics of the nation’s farms.
This gathering in Washington had explicit resonance for David Senter, founding father of the American Agriculture Motion. In 1979, Senter was one of many organizers of the Tractorcade protest that drew hundreds of farmers to the capital. They traveled by tractor, touring throughout the U.S. at 15 miles an hour — ”we got here in on each East/West interstate, 100 miles a day,” recollects Senter — to foyer Congress for a brand new Farm Invoice to extend crop costs and to have larger affect in agriculture coverage. (One farmer at Tuesday’s rally returned with the tractor he’d pushed to D.C. in 1979).
Senter then returned to Washington in 1987 to accompany Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp when the 2 artists testified earlier than the Senate Agriculture Committee concerning the household farm foreclosures disaster.
Senter was one of many featured audio system Tuesday on the rally in Freedom Park. Since his earlier journeys, have the stakes develop into greater? “We continue to lose family farmers and the farms become larger and larger,” replied Senter. “However we’ve to determine make place for the subsequent technology of farmers, the younger farmers that need to develop meals for this nation and the world, in order that they’ll survive.
That “absolutely does” embody addressing the local weather problem, stated Senter. “Because we live in an extreme climate situation. I mean, you have floods, tornadoes, wildfires, droughts. It’s just unbelievable the climate extremes we’re experiencing and, of course, farmers, they deal with that every day, trying to produce food. So it’s very important that we get involved with that.”
When Willie Nelson and his fellow artists fashioned Farm Help in 1985, he recruited Carolyn Mugar to run the group. “The earliest Farm Aid files are all stained with spaghetti sauce since I did that work at my kitchen table,” she recalled Tuesday. Then she set off throughout the nation, talking to farmers at their kitchen tables. (Mugar was acknowledged for her work on Billboard’s Ladies in Music record in 2020, the thirty fifth anniversary of Farm Help).
“What in the Farm Bill can people get behind? Really, the very bottom line of everything is farm viability,” stated Mugar. “A farmer can’t actually even begin entering into regenerative agriculture [to address climate change] if that farm is just not financially viable.
“And that means that we’ve really got to look at how farming should be taking place in this country. And do we really want to continue corporate concentrated farming, where the land is toxic and ruined, into the future? Or do we want to support farmers who are trying to keep, maintain and build the soil?”
In coping with the nation’s lawmakers, stated Mugar, “we’ve got to get smarter about what we demand.”