Blog | June 17, 2020

Farm Aid Launches Farmer Resilience Initiative in Response to COVID-19

Farm Aid is distributing $400,000 to launch a national COVID-19 Farmer Resilience Initiative, working with more than 120 local, state and regional organizations across the country to pair immediate relief efforts with longer-term resilience strategies. Farm Aid is proud to invest in our farm and food system, from farm to plate, and take care of the farmers and ranchers who are providing essential services by feeding their communities.

“The time to build a resilient family farm food system is now!” – Willie Nelson

Through the Farmer Resilience Initiative, Farm Aid is distributing relief funds in all 50 U.S. states and the U.S. Virgin Islands, administered by local and regional partners. Grants, distributed in $500 increments, will help farmers meet household expenses and are paired with resources developed by Farm Aid’s national partners, which include Farmers’ Legal Action Group (FLAG), Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA (RAFI-USA), Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative, Intertribal Agriculture Council, and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. Together, these partners work to help farmers and ranchers navigate recovery.

“Farmers and ranchers face a deep and multifaceted farm crisis. Federal responses to both the ongoing economic crisis and COVID-19 have unfortunately flowed to farms with the most resources, as well as powerful corporate interests, leaving the vast majority of farmers high and dry. Without aggressive action, we will lose thousands of farms and ranches to this crisis, with ripple effects across our food system that are sure to further drain rural economies, impoverish food and farm workers, and consolidate land and markets into even fewer hands.”

– Alicia Harvie
Farm Aid’s Advocacy & Farmer Services Director

Our Approach

Through our partners, we will distribute at least $100,000 in each of four U.S. regions, using the following multifaceted approach built upon our three decades of disaster response:

Leveraging immediate relief to build resilience.

Farmers experience significant lag time between the moment a crisis strikes and when federal and state resources actually begin to flow to community levels. Farm Aid works with local partners to quickly distribute emergency funds in the amount of $500 to farm families in order to provide immediate relief and foster resilience before larger sources of money become available.

Grassroots at its core.

We believe that who distributes relief money matters, which is why Farm Aid funds are administered by local organizations and service providers that are positioned to build relationships with them over the course of their recovery and beyond. This approach has the benefit of sharing power between the grantor (Farm Aid) and grantee, while handing major decision-making authority over to the local and regional organizations that work most directly with farmers. 

Convening leaders to build capacity, increase knowledge, and spark model-sharing.

Throughout the duration of the crisis, Farm Aid is hosting weekly calls with the partners coordinating fund distribution locally, as well as with national partners who are experts in immediate and long-term disaster recovery. The calls allow us to share status updates on the crisis, learn from each other, share response models and identify areas for further collaboration.

Connecting the dots between crisis intervention and lasting structural change.

Time and again, we find that what we learn when trying to save one farm informs the policies and interventions that help all farms. Those lessons also help build a more resilient food and agricultural system. Farm Aid coordinates farm service providers and policy advocacy networks so that on-the-ground lessons can be translated into important policies.

To help farm families recover from the impacts of COVID-19, the Farmer Resilience Initiative is:

  • Investing in farmer-led solutions to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Deploying emergency grants to family farmers and ranchers in need, particularly those producers that are less likely to receive federal and state disaster aid;
  • Coordinating a national network of experts to create comprehensive resources for farmers;
  • Offering support to farmers under stress through the 1-800-FARM-AID hotline and connecting farmers to the legal, financial and mental health support resources they need to recover;
  • Supporting local, state and national farm organizations working on the ground to help farmers navigate this crisis; and
  • Advocating for needed COVID recovery funds and resources from the federal government for short-term relief and long-term resilience.

National Partners

Our national partners serve as critical links that connect national and local crisis recovery efforts. Farm Aid has funded the creation of The Farmers’ Guide to COVID-19 Relief, a comprehensive guide authored by the Farmers’ Legal Action Group in coordination Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA, Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative, Intertribal Agriculture Council, and National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. This guide outlines key provisions in the CARES Act and other emerging policies related to farmers, as well as recommendations on avoiding scams and mitigating discrimination in program implementation. We continue to brief farm service provider networks on this guide, stress assistance strategies, and other critical programs through webinars.

Voices of Resilience: Quotes from Our Partners

“It is critically important to provide direct relief to Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities during this time. And there is also the essential need to invest in long-term recovery and infrastructure-building that BIPOC farming communities will need after the pandemic.

— Melanie Allen, Program Director of the Black Farmer Fund

“America’s farmers and ranchers already carry a great burden to produce food and fiber under increasingly stressful conditions. Following years of low and volatile markets from continued trade issues and other disruptions, they did not need another catastrophic event like the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope grant efforts such as Farm Aid’s Farmer Resilience Initiative will be a bright spot of relief for our nation’s struggling agricultural producers.”

— Scott Blubaugh, President of American Farmers & Ranchers / Oklahoma Farmers Union (AFR/OFU)

“Friends of Family Farmers is proud to work with several other fantastic nonprofit organizations in Washington and Alaska. We aim to ensure that this money gets to historically underserved farmers most harmed by COVID-19. Meeting and working with these other caring, passionate people to help family farmers in our region is time well spent.”

— Shari Sirkin, Executive Director of Friends of Family Farmers

“Kansas Farmers Union has always been so impressed with how Farm Aid steps forward when needed with what they can. We have had the honor of assisting their efforts in Kansas over the years after tornadoes, flooding and now COVID-19.”

— Donn Teske, President of Kansas Farmers Union

“Some of the food producers most impacted in the Pacific Northwest by COVID-19 are those who come from Black, Indigenous, or People of Color communities and had accounts with restaurants that were forced to shutter their doors months ago. These are some of the food producers who have suffered the most yet weren’t provided COVID aid by our federal government. While we know this money is merely a drop in the bucket, we hope that it will provide some relief to these producers during these tough and troubling times. We are grateful to Farm Aid and our organizational partners for their efforts to help ease the pain facing these farmers, ranchers, fishers and their families in our communities.”

— Kendra Kimbirauskas, Vice President of the Northwest Farmer’s Union

“From the get-go, we’ve wanted to leverage this funding to bring greater awareness to the larger issue of disparities in who gets access to land and resources to farm, which has led us to focus our outreach to farmers who identify as People of Color, women, and new and beginning farmers.”

— Christina Stucker-Gassi, Chair on Idaho Organization of Resource Councils

“The Farm Aid COVID-19 Farmer Resilience Initiative funds for Nebraska are being administered by our Rural Response Hotline. We have prioritized meeting the immediate family living expenses for farm, ranch and rural families hit hard by COVID-19.”

— Vern Jantzen, Chair on Nebraska Rural Response Council

“Farming communities already shoulder a great deal of risk, and the economic turmoil resulting from COVID-19 is pushing many farmers to a breaking point. We are grateful to Farm Aid for working tirelessly to advocate on behalf of farmers in crisis. And we are thankful for this opportunity to join them and partner organizations from across the country to support the labor of young farmers and ranchers, specifically Black, Indigenous and other farmers of color. It is our hope that these funds will assist farmers and ranchers as they fight hard to keep their businesses open through the uncertainty and challenges of this pandemic, and to ensure food security for their communities.”

— Martin Lemos, Co-Executive Director of the National Young Farmers Coalition

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