Archive for the ‘Farm Aid’ Category

join us on the #Road2FarmAid.

Sunday, July 26th, 2015

Farm Aid 30on-road

Dear Family Farm Supporter,

We can’t wait to share all the details of this year’s Farm Aid concert with you next week. But before we get to that, we wanted to take a few moments to invite you to join us on the #Road2FarmAid. For 30 years, we’ve been standing shoulder-to-shoulder with family farmers, fighting for a family farm food system.

Thanks to each of you – family farmers, activists and advocates, eaters and donors – we’re making a big difference. What we’ve accomplished together is proof that ordinary people make extraordinary changes.

But there’s more work to be done. We need more family farmers on the land and we need to make sure that everyone can access family farm food in their communities.

As we count down the days to Farm Aid 30 on September 19, we hope you’ll share with us the many ways you’re taking action to create a family farm future of agriculture.

Actions that may seem simple, like seeking out food grown on family farms or starting a conversation with friends and family about the challenges farmers face, can add up to make a big difference.

Tell us how you’re making change, and you could win Farm Aid memorabilia and tickets to Farm Aid 30.

Let’s take action together for even bigger and bolder changes. Share your action today.

Thanks for all you do,

The team at Farm Aid

P.S. Follow Farm Aid on Twitter and Facebook, and use #Road2FarmAid to share your story. And, stay tuned next week for all the details about Farm Aid 30!

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Stay Tuned! Farm Aid to announce location of Farm Aid Concert 30 on September 19th — very soon!

Sunday, July 26th, 2015
Farm Aid's photo.

Willie Nelson and Norah Jones, “Lonestar” (Farm Aid 25)

Friday, July 24th, 2015

From DirecTV’s broadcast of Farm Aid 25: Growing Hope for America, Norah Jones performs “Lonestar” with Willie Nelson at Miller Park in Milwaukee on October 2, 2010. Farm Aid was started by Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp in 1985 to keep family farmers on the land and has worked since then to make sure everyone has access to good food from family farmers.

Farm Aid: A Song for America

Thursday, July 16th, 2015

A look at Farm Aid’s thirty years of history working to keep family farmers on the land.

“Farm Aid supports a food system that is democratic, independent, competitive and locally based. This isn’t an exercise in nostalgia, it’s a commitment to a way of life. These are values worth fighting for.”
–– Eric Schlosser

Farm Aid was started by Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp in 1985 to keep family farmers on the land and has worked since then to make sure everyone has access to good food from family farmers. Dave Matthews joined Farm Aid’s board of directors in 2001.

For more information about Farm Aid, visit:

Farm Aid’s performances are donated by the artists in order to raise funds and raise awareness for family farmers. They’ve raised their voices to help — what can you do?

“America’s Poultry farmers under siege,” — Willie Nelson

Saturday, July 11th, 2015
by:  Willie Nelson
and  Marcy Kaptur

As Americans, we cherish our rights to speak freely, to assemble peacefully and to address our government representatives without fear of retaliation. But for tens of thousands of America’s poultry farmers, those rights are under siege by the poultry companies that control much of their lives.

In May of 2010, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and then-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder traveled to Alabama for a hearing examining abuses and anticompetitive practices in the poultry industry.Poultry farmers at this and similar events described a widespread culture of fear. Growers reported retaliation in the form of canceled contracts, substandard chicks and feed, unannounced audits, rigged prices and expensive upgrade requirements if they chose to speak publicly or to their congressional representatives, or to organize with fellow growers to defend their interests.How can this be?The story of the modern poultry industry is one of corporate consolidation, where companies such as Tyson, Perdue, Pilgrim’s Pride and Koch Foods exert almost complete control over farmers. In 1977, the top four U.S. poultry processing companies had a combined 17 percent market share. By 2012, that number was 57 percent. Many areas have only one processing facility where farmers can deliver their chickens, creating localized monopolies.

This lack of competition means many growers have to accept whatever terms they are offered. Poultry processors can lure new growers to the industry with promises of a lucrative investment and an easy way to make a living. In these times of rural economic decline, it’s an offer many rural residents cannot refuse.

But farmers cannot enter the poultry business without a contract. And to secure a contract requires an initial investment of hundreds of thousands of dollars at a minimum. Many farmers go as much as $1 million into debt to construct a vast complex of automated chicken houses that can each house tens of thousands of birds.

The company may show its hand only after the grower is on the hook for these costs: a take-it-or-leave-it contract that imposes significant costs and risks on growers and limits their ability to contest the deal or negotiate a better one in the future.

In such cases, everything is on the line for these growers; many have put up their homes and land as collateral on their loans. Such situations are not only exploited by the industry but also are part of its operating structure and can leave growers trapped in a cycle of debt and under the thumb of the poultry giants.

The result? The Agriculture Department estimates that growers earn about 34 cents for every chicken they raise, while poultry processing companies take in about $3.23 for the same bird. Under such a consolidated system, when local farmers are trapped in debt and intimidated from speaking out, the rights of free speech and assembly seem distant.

The good news is that we have laws on the books to protect these farmers. All we have to do is enforce them.

In the 2008 farm bill, Congress directed the USDA to develop rules to protect farmers from retaliation and stop deceptive and anticompetitive practices by processors. The USDA did as directed, using findings from the aforementioned workshops to develop strong rules protecting poultry growers’ basic rights.

One of these rules prohibits industry retaliation “in response to the lawful expression, spoken or written, association, or action of a poultry grower.” In other words, growers have the right to speak freely and peaceably assemble. Other provisions prohibit deceptive or anticompetitive practices.

The powerful meat lobby has pressured Congress year after year to block funding to enforce these rules. Today, farmers remain vulnerable to industry retaliation, discrimination and deception. A funding bill that would allow the USDA to protect farmers from these unfair practices has started to move in Congress, but the same powerful interests that stopped it before will not be far behind. Members of Congress need to hear from their constituents on this issue immediately.

The First Amendment guarantees that Congress shall make no law “abridging the freedom of speech, or .?.?. the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” The United States was built on these freedoms and Congress has a responsibility to protect them. Yet America’s poultry growers are trapped in a system that punishes them for exercising these constitutional rights.

As one family farm supporter and one member of Congress — and foremost as two concerned Americans — we humbly submit that this system needs to change.

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

Willie Nelson meets with Idaho ranchers

Monday, June 29th, 2015
by:  John O’Connell

Photo submitted Idaho ranchers Mabel and Grant Dobbs meet with musician Willie Nelson prior to his June 19 concert in Nampa, Idaho, to discuss concerns about agriculture. Nelson is an original founder of Farm Aid, which works to keep family farms in business.
A Weiser, Idaho, ranching couple got to visit with musician Willie Nelson about agricultural issues as part of his Farm Aid program.

NAMPA, Idaho — Idaho ranchers Mabel and Grant Dobbs had 15 minutes inside of Willie Nelson’s tour bus to discuss pressing challenges in agriculture while one of their favorite entertainers nodded in agreement.

The brief meeting prior to Nelson’s June 19 concert here was arranged by staff with Farm Aid, an organization devoted to protecting the family farm, founded by Nelson and fellow musicians Neil Young and John Mellencamp.

According to Farm Aid staff, Nelson was concerned about the stories of struggling farmers he met on the road in the 1980s when he formed the organization and still prioritizes meeting with agricultural producers when he tours.

Mabel and Grant, of Weiser, spoke with Nelson on behalf of the Idaho Organization of Resource Councils and its parent organization, the Wester Organization of Resource Councils. Mabel said Farm Aid has offered grants to both organizations, including for an Idaho campaign to enact legislation governing sales of home-produced “cottage” food products.

That bill stalled in the Legislature, so IORC is backing a rule-making process by Idaho’s health districts to clarify which cottage products are allowed and policies regarding their production. A public comment period on the rule-making process ends July 24.

Mabel became involved in WORC in the late 1980s, assisting in its efforts to help farmers cope with credit challenges, prompted by personal experience. She and her husband had struggled to stay in business, having expanded their ranch property just before a farm credit crisis. They advocated for legislation to force banks to mediate with producers and seek to find alternate means to resolve credit issues before foreclosure.

Mabel said the bill failed and “thousands of farmers and ranchers went down.” As they seek to transfer their farm and ranch to their youngest daughter, Mabel said producers still face many of the same challenges.

Mabel told Nelson, “You started Farm Aid 30 years ago. I got involved 28 years ago, and the fight goes on. You and I are getting much older, but the need is still there.”

Mabel and Grant also addressed water quality, the need for more transparent deliberations regarding trade agreements, the lack of transparency in livestock markets and country of origin labeling on meat.

Mabel opposes ongoing efforts in Congress to repeal country-of-origin labeling, believing it provides useful information to the consumer, while the law’s critics fear trade retaliation from Canada and Mexico.

Farm Aid spokeswoman Jennifer Fahy said her organization provides grants to like-minded organizations and also does its own work, including operating a hotline that directs producers to resources in their regions.

“We’ve worked quite a bit on crop insurance to make sure farmers have that security net,” Fahy added.

Fahy said roughly 60 percent of Farm Aid’s revenue comes from sales of concert tickets and merchandise, with the rest coming from donations. Dave Matthews joined Farm Aid’s board of directors in 2001.

The next Farm Aid concert, featuring the four member musicians and guests, is scheduled for Sept. 19 at a location yet to be named.


Check out the New Farm Aid Website! (and mark your calendars for Farm Aid 30 concert on 9/19/15)

Sunday, June 14th, 2015



Farm Aid has a new website! They put a lot of work into this, and it is full of information. Check it out.

Still no hints about where the 2015 Concert will be in September, yet, but lots of other good stuff. Check it out.




In the 1980s, family farmers faced a crisis the likes of which hadn’t been seen since the Great Depression. Plummeting farm product prices and land values, rising interest rates, troubled credit markets and unfair lending practices pushed tens of thousands of farms out of business, forcing millions of people off their land.

It was in this context that Willie Nelson, joined by John Mellencamp and Neil Young, organized a groundbreaking concert in 1985 to raise awareness and funds to help America’s family farmers, sparking a family farm movement that continues to this day. Dave Matthews joined the Board of Directors in 2001, adding another strong voice to Farm Aid’s work. This timeline features highlights from Farm Aid’s thirty years of action for family farmers and the Good Food Movement.

“No good food movement without farmers” — Willie Nelson

Thursday, May 21st, 2015


The following article by Willie Nelson originally appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of  Slow : USA, Slow Food USA‘s biannual discussion journal. It is reproduced here in its entirety.

Listen Up, Good Food Movement
by Willie Nelson

In the 1980s, as I toured the country on my bus, Honeysuckle Rose, I made it a habit to stop in at diners and truck stops, to talk to folks there. I heard familiar stories that brought me back to my upbringing in rural Texas. And it was from those folks that I came to understand the challenges our family farmers and rural residents face… and to see what a tremendous resource they are to all of us.

Farmers, farm wives, and friends of farmers told me about what was going on in the Heartland. They may have only been looking for an ear to witness their story. Or they may have thought that I could help. Either way, I could not let them down.

Farm Aid 1985 Crowd

This is how Farm Aid started in 1985: by listening to farmers. It was the height of the Farm Crisis, which pushed hundreds of thousands of family farmers off the land. John Mellencamp, Neil Young and I, and fifty more artists held a concert to raise money to help farmers and build awareness to put an end to the policies that pushed family farmers off the land and paved the way for industrial, corporatized agriculture.

John often says now that we were naïve to think that just one concert would fix things. I suppose we were. Thirty years later we are still here, standing up and pushing forward with family farmers to keep them on their land growing good food for all of us. And we won’t stop, because we keep listening to farmers and rural residents who tell us what the industrialization of farms and food is doing to our soil and water, our communities, and our health.

It was in the 1990s that we at Farm Aid heard from the countryside about the rise of factory farms. Farmers told us what these giant pork factories were doing to their towns. The factory farms polluted the water and the air, making it impossible for rural folks to enjoy their own homes. They were forced inside, with the windows closed, to escape the stench. They lost financial security as their property values plummeted. They lost the diversity of their farms as they were forced to compete with agribusiness on an industrial scale. And they lost not just their livelihoods, but the legacy that was passed down to them through the generations. I went there, to Iowa and Missouri, to stand with family farmers.

Farm Aid listened and we acted with farmers, each step of the way. The farmers knew the strategy for organizing their neighbors. They are the grassroots, capable of turning out thousands to rally against the politics and policies that bring corporate consolidation to the countryside. They are rooted in their community, which gives them the strength and commitment to fight, for years, for their own sake and for the sake of their neighbors and their children and grandchildren. Later in the 1990s we learned about GMO seeds, from you guessed it, family farmers. It was family farmers who first heard about the supposed benefits of genetic engineering before any concerned eater ever encountered a GMO product in the grocery store. The farmers who reached out to Farm Aid told us that they wanted to organize a campaign to make sure that all farmers knew what genetic engineering was and how it could affect their crops, their land, their markets, and their livelihoods. Farm Aid supported the farmers and helped get the Farmer to Farmer Campaign on Genetic Engineering off the ground. Today’s movement to regulate and label (and even ban) GMOs has its roots in the farmers who first organized around these issues in the 1990s.

The promise of the Good Food Movement lies not merely in all of us knowing and speaking out about the critical importance of our food, but in the connections we cultivate with family farmers.

Today, Farm Aid celebrates the power and potential of the Good Food Movement. People everywhere are searching out family farm food, asking for it at their local grocery stores and restaurants. The United States has more than 7,000 farmers markets, and the CSA model where eaters become “shareholders” in a local farm has spread like wildfire. New, young farmers are coming on the land, with college degrees and often no family background in agriculture, but with a passion and ingenuity that is changing the landscape. Articles, books, and films tell the story of our food system, and spokespeople have become well-known leaders of this movement.

But as the movement picks up steam, I worry that too often the family farmer voice is not heard—even by people who love their good food. The promise of the Good Food Movement lies not merely in all of us knowing and speaking out about the critical importance of our food, but in the connections we cultivate with family farmers. With those connections established, we can support farmers in new ways—with our dollars, yes, but also with our voices, at the town hall, at the ballot box… everywhere we go. Each one of us can participate in the culture of agriculture by cooking, sharing, and growing our own food when we can, and learning from our farmers.

When it comes right down to it, there is no Good Food Movement without family farmers.

And its success depends not only on our supporting “local” and “organic” and “sustainable,” but also on our recognition and respect of the wisdom and experience of family farmers and rural folks. We face tremendous challenges to right our farm and food system. But the solutions are on the shelf, as I like to say. We only need to open our ears, hearts and minds to truly listen.

Support Family Farmers; Donate to Farm Aid

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Willie Nelson, “Moonlight in Vermont”

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Willie Nelson & Family, “Sittin’ Here in Limbo’ (Farm Aid 1997)

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

An American Event: Farm Aid

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

For information about the 2015 Farm Aid fundraising concert, on September 19, 2015, keep in touch with FarmAid.

Farm Aid II on the Fourth of July (Austin, TX) (1986)

Monday, May 11th, 2015



Another rare find from Budrock’s collection.  Thanks, Buddy.

For information on attending Farm Aid 2015 on September 19th:

“A Salute for all the help you’ve given to American Family Farmers”

Friday, May 8th, 2015


Save the Date for 2015 Farm Aid Fundraising Concert: September 19, 2015!

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