Photo © Marc Hauser

Blog | December 8, 2020

Our Vision for Fixing the Farm and Food System

On behalf of Farm Aid, Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young and Dave Matthews laid out a vision of agriculture that can be achieved when the Biden/Harris administration takes office on January 20.

Family farmers and ranchers, as well as organizations like Farm Aid, are hopeful that we will have open and transparent communication with the Department of Agriculture and input into the direction of agriculture in this country.

Our vision is built on the foundation of Farm Aid’s values and 35-year history in standing with and for America’s family farmers and ranchers.

Farm Aid Statement on Agriculture in the Biden/Harris Administration

Since 1985, Farm Aid has amplified the voices of America’s independent farmers. We look forward to working with President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to do the essential and urgent work necessary to strengthen family farm agriculture and food security across this country, in rural and urban communities alike.

America is in an historic crisis, faced with COVID-19, systemic racism, a struggling economy and climate change.

The challenges faced by our country have significant and specific impacts on family farmers, rural communities and our food system. In addition to these immediate challenges, family farmers face systemic issues that are deeply rooted in corporate concentration, practices that stifle fairness and competition, and misguided policies. No administration in recent history has adequately addressed the far-reaching changes needed to reform our food and farm system.

The time for a change in our farm policy direction is now; without it, we stand on the precipice of another farm crisis — and with it, the potential loss of hundreds of thousands of farms.

While this bitter election season invites us to examine the polarization of our country and the urban/rural divide, the truth is, farmers — and in fact most Americans — share a common understanding that our food system is not working for most of us. A healthy farm and food system that benefits farmers and eaters can bring us together. Farm Aid calls on the Biden-Harris administration to lead with a new vision for agriculture; one that values the contribution of family farmers and a resilient family farm system to healthy communities and people. That vision includes:

Placing Independent Farmers and Rural Americans at the US Department of Agriculture

Farmers, food systems builders and rural strategists know what the solutions are for their communities. We call on the Biden-Harris administration to appoint agricultural leaders to the USDA and its agencies who have hands-on experience working on the challenges independent family farmers face and who understand the diversity of race, culture, politics and experience of farmers, farmworkers and rural community members. These positions should reflect the diversity that is rural America, including farmers who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC).

Putting Our Farm and Food System Back in the Hands of the People

Previous administrations — both Democratic and Republican — have failed farmers and rural communities, allowing corporate power to grow uninhibited, driving out small- and mid-sized farmers, and consolidating the bulk of our food production into the hands of just a few large corporations. We need a USDA that prioritizes a resilient network of many diversified independent family farms and local and regional food systems; that enforces existing rules and implements new policies to protect farmers and ensure fair and competitive markets; and that strengthens and supports new and beginning farmers, BIPOC farmers, women farmers, veteran farmers and farmworkers.

Ending Systemic Racism in Agriculture and Creating Opportunity for All

The USDA needs to undertake a new commitment to address its long history of discrimination against BIPOC farmers, starting with hiring staff that represent the true diversity of agriculture and rural America and conducting a review of all programs and practices to address inequities with the goal of ending the legacy of discrimination. To ensure opportunity for all farmers, USDA must ensure an accessible and equitable farm credit system.

Combating Climate Change

Farmers are on the front lines of climate change. We call for a USDA that accepts the real and present threat of climate change and has a detailed plan to mitigate it — one that includes farmers and soil health as part of the climate solution. We want to see farmers reimbursed for the ecosystem services they provide through their land stewardship, and public/private partnerships that increase research into regenerative agriculture and alternative energy production.

Revitalizing Infrastructure and Strengthening Rural Communities

Our rural areas have too often been seen as areas rich in natural resources to extract, with rural people paying the price and reaping none of the benefits. Rural communities have been struggling for more than a decade, and over the past four years they have been further deprioritized and defunded. We need a meaningful commitment by the Biden-Harris administration to ensure that rural communities have safe and modern infrastructure, access to safe and healthful food, connectivity to be part of the digital age, and opportunities for quality education and jobs that don’t require people to exit their rural communities for opportunity elsewhere, dangerously depopulating rural America.

Creating Accessible and Affordable Health Care

Farm Aid has answered our farmer hotline since 1985, and a major cause of farmer crisis calls has been unexpected health care expenses due to a major illness or injury. No family should have to make the choice between paying to receive lifesaving treatment and having to sell their family farm. A commitment to strengthening rural infrastructure must include shoring up rural hospitals and increasing access to health care and mental health care in rural America.


On behalf of Farm Aid,

Further Reading

As the new administration takes office, we’ll periodically report on their progress toward this vision. To see specific policy actions relating to this vision, please see these policy recommendation documents from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and Family Farm Action, both of which are supported by Farm Aid.

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