Why are Farm Advocates important today?

The expanding diversity of beginning farmers today are encountering a range of new needs in addition to the difficulties that led to the creation of the original Farm Advocate network 30 years ago. Farmer access to effective lending, risk management and legal support is a major factor limiting the growth of local, organic and sustainable food production. The expertise of Farm Advocates is critical to keep farmers on the land and encourage new farmers to get started.

Farm Advocate Link

Photo: Rob Amberg

When a farmer first reaches out for assistance, their experience also illuminates policy flaws and biases that allow many small- and mid-scale, sustainable, limited resource, and/or historically disadvantaged farms to slip through the cracks and fail. By helping to uncover injustice, bias, or flawed servicing, Farm Advocates identify opportunities for legal and political action. Farm Advocacy has led to numerous policy changes and class action lawsuits that benefit family farmers across the country, including changes to USDA loan administration, changes to other USDA programs, the creation of new USDA programs, and reforms for contract producers. Here is a list of policy changes and class action lawsuits:

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We now face a new series of time-sensitive challenges. Our lead Farm Advocates, with encyclopedic knowledge of how farm finances work and how to save and start farms, are retiring. They are taking with them knowledge that will take a generation to replace. And with the expanding diversity of beginning farmers and their range of needs, the expertise of Farm Advocates is critical. The need is great, the number of Farm Advocates too few.

Farm Advocate Link

Photo: Ebet Roberts

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