The Louisiana Interchurch Conference (LIC) advocates for social justice and fair public policies. One of the ways they do this is through their farm advocacy program. Farm advocates work across the United States to help farmers thrive. They are farm finance experts, agriculture attorneys, rural organizers, social workers, crisis counselors and of course farmers themselves. LIC’s farm advocate program is directed by Betty Puckett, who accepts hotline calls and makes farm visits to help farm families struggling with debt, loss of their farms, bankruptcy and other issues. She offers general support and guidance for all of the stress that comes with farming.
Below is the history of the LIC farm advocacy program in Betty’s own words:
“It all began in 1986 when the Director of the LIC, Rev James Stovall, and various religious organizations in Louisiana got calls from farmers throughout the state who were experiencing financial problems and did not know what to do. The LIC applied for its first grant from Farm Aid that year. Since that time I have been available for farmers throughout Louisiana and other states to counsel them regarding their rights and alternatives to foreclosure. Some of their issues were cash flows, loan servicing, bankruptcy, administrative appeals, consequences of tax liability after debt write off and debt settlement, administrative offset of government payments, release of income, right to information under the privacy act and the freedom of information act. In one case I assisted a nursery grower with debt settlement of her Farm Service Agency debt. She had to use her home as collateral to pay off the debt. Later it was determined that the Agency had discriminated against her when she got the loans. She was entitled to enough award money to pay off the debt on her home.
Farm Aid grants have always been important to ensure farmers are not deprived of their property without due process of law. Without the grants it would have been impossible for me to assist farmers for the past 29 years.”