FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Farm Aid Sounds Hopeful Note for Future of Food and Agriculture
Artists, farmers at Farm Aid 2009 Presented by Horizon Organic call for sweeping policy change to support family farm innovation
Maryland Heights, Mo.— Farm Aid praised family farmers for their ingenuity and perseverance at its sold-out benefit concert held today at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Maryland Heights, Mo., just outside of St. Louis.
Farm Aid board members Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews, joined by artists performing at Farm Aid 2009 Presented by Horizon Organic, held up the innovation and commitment of family farmers in a call for food and agriculture policies that support their efforts to realize a new vision for agriculture.
"Family farmers are the first rung of the economic ladder in this country," said Nelson, president and founder of Farm Aid. "Against all odds, they have persevered and found ways to stay on their land, growing good food for all of us and creating strong communities. It's time now for policy to rise to meet their needs with fair prices and support for their innovations."
Farm Aid's music and HOMEGROWN food festival celebrated the important contributions of family farmers, while raising funds to support Farm Aid's work throughout the year to strengthen family farm agriculture. The concert event again featured HOMEGROWN concessions, which included traditional festival fare like corn dogs, candy apples and cheeseburgers made from family-farm identified, local and organic ingredients. Farm Aid's HOMEGROWN Village featured hands-on activities that gave concertgoers a chance to meet farmers, get their hands dirty, and learn how family farmers are enriching our soil, protecting our water, and connecting us to our roots.
Farm Aid 2009 Presented by Horizon Organic featured board members Nelson, Young, Mellencamp, and Matthews, who performed with Tim Reynolds, along with Jason Mraz, Wilco, Jamey Johnson, Gretchen Wilson, Phosphorescent, Billy Joe Shaver, Will Dailey, Ernie Isley & the Jam Band, Ryan Bingham & the Dead Horses, The Blackwood Quartet, and Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real.
"The power of music brings people together. The Farm Aid concert, with its genre-busting lineup of talented, driven artists, reflects the diversity of family farming in America. Farm Aid prides itself on being a big tent. We invite all Americans to join us in pressing for food production that protects our environment, our health and our economy," said Carolyn Mugar, executive director of Farm Aid.
"We are encouraged by the opportunity the new administration in Washington offers us all for making the needed changes."
Farm Aid kicked off its annual benefit concert with a welcome from Governor Jay Nixon at a press event hosted by renowned St. Louis radio personality Charlie Brennan. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan joined farmers and food advocates in a conversation about the many ways family farmers are rebuilding local and regional food systems and re-energizing the economy.
"Farmers face overwhelming challenges as they work each day to put food on our tables, and Farm Aid's ongoing efforts on behalf of family farmers have helped put a human face on this vocation," said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. "At the same time, there is a bright future for small- and mid-sized producers because there is an agricultural renaissance taking place in America. More and more consumers are wanting to better connect with their producers, and USDA's new 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' initiative helps to accomplish that goal," said Merrigan.
At the event, Farm Aid called on the USDA to enact policies that support family farmers and help them thrive. In the 1990s, broken farm policies and consolidated corporate food production forced nearly 80 percent of hog farmers out of business. According to Farm Aid, similar circumstances are causing dairy farmers to be paid less than half of what it costs to produce milk, and the U.S. risks losing thousands of dairy farmers this year alone. Specifically, Farm Aid reiterated its request that the USDA set a price for milk that covers the cost of production to guarantee dairy farmers a fair price that keeps them on their land. Farm Aid also asked the USDA to stop using taxpayer dollars to fund new and larger factory farms.
The concert was broadcast live on DIRECTV's The 101 Network and on Willie's Place on Sirius XM Radio, both with rebroadcasts during the coming week. It was also streamed live on www.farmaid.org, presented by EternaGreen. DIRECTV has pledged to match all of its customer donations up to $50,000 made between September 1 and October 31, 2009. In addition, concertgoers and people watching the concert at home can text FARMER to 90999 to donate $5 to help Farm Aid keep family farmers on their land.
Farm Aid 2009 Presented by Horizon Organic was sponsored by DIRECTV, Silk, Anvil, Wind Capital Group, EternaGreen and Organic Valley Family of Farms.
Farm Aid's mission is to build a vibrant, family farm-centered system of agriculture in America. Farm Aid artists and board members Willie 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, with the support of the artists who contribute their performances each year, has raised nearly $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.