September 25, 2008

Dear Congress,

As you consider the distribution of $700 billion to the very banks and corporations that have gotten our country into the mess we're in now, we ask you to pause for a moment and consider what that money could do for the people who build our country from the ground up… for our schools, healthcare system, our states, cities and towns, alternative energy development, the homeowners who were the pawns of the banking and mortgage industry. As the Board of Directors of Farm Aid, we want to alert you to what a mere $1 billion could do in the hands of the people who grow our food.

American family farmers are the backbone of our economy, the first rung on the economic ladder. For 23 years, we've worked to keep family farmers on the land. But it's not enough just to save family farmers; we have to create new farmers. When farms fail, Main Street businesses fail. The opposite is true too: When farms thrive, Main Street businesses and local communities thrive. Far from Wall Street, family farmers are creating real wealth, producing real value, growing from seeds and sunlight a product that nourishes us both physically and economically. Supporting diverse decentralized family farming will do far more for the stability and vitality of our country than a handful of global agribusiness corporations could ever do.

The proposed $700 billion bailout asks taxpayers to foot the bill without giving them the opportunity to share in any gains. A $1 billion investment in family farm agriculture would enrich us all, because we are all shareholders of the family farm. The return on investment in the family farm includes thriving local economies, nutritious food for better health, a safer and more secure food supply, a cleaner environment and more renewable energy. Investing in local, sustainable and organic food would shorten the distance between eaters and farmers, conserve energy, create economic opportunities and new jobs through innovative processing and distribution systems, resulting in a better, greener, more efficient food and farm economy.

We'll leave the economic details to the experts, but we know from traveling the highways and back roads of this country that trickle down economic policy has not created wealth for the vast majority of Americans. Let's start from the ground up. When we invest in our family farmers, we invest in the revitalization of our country.

Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young and Dave Matthews
Farm Aid Board of Directors