April 8, 2011
As Congress worked to reach a budget deal and avoid a government shutdown this week, more than 30 farmers and farm advocates from NSAC member groups in 18 states spread out over Capitol Hill to defend conservation and sustainable agriculture programs from reckless spending cuts.
The message was delivered to key members of the Agriculture, Appropriations, and Budget Committees that slashing programs that support renewable energy, conservation, economic opportunity in rural communities, and beginning, organic, and minority farmers would undermine rural economies and the environment for years to come.
It has never been more important to bring farmer voices to Washington, D.C. The personal stories of our farmers bring to life the human, economic, and community benefits of sustainable agriculture.
Take Jenny Meudt, for example, a second generation in the Pinn-Oak Ridge Farm in Delevan, WI. Their farm received a $150,000 Value Added Producer Grant to build a federally-inspected lamb processing plant. The operation now processes lamb from 30 local producers to Pinn-Oak specifications for marketing under a Wisconsin Lamb trademark in Wisconsin, Illinois and beyond. The plant employs 6 with $500,000 in annual gross sales.
Leah Smith’s story was about a $25,000 SARE grant that leveraged an additional $120,000 in private dollars for a wholesale marketing project that serves 70 producers at the Marin County Farmers Market. In it’s first year the project is aggregating nearly $200,000 worth of fruits and vegetables for sale to Veritable Vegetable and other wholesalers.
Terry Jacobson came to the fly-in from North Outback Farm in Wales, North Dakota. Terry and his wife Janet raise small grains, beef cattle and sheep and have farmed organically for over 30 years. Terry told members of the North Dakota delegation that the Conservation Stewardship Program is far more meaningful to their farm than the regular farm programs. CSP rewards them for the care they take to build soil, protect water quality and produce healthy food for local consumption.
These stories speak volumes about the role that sustainable agriculture can play in economic recovery and rural revitalization.
NSAC members participating in the fly in included California Farm Link, Center for Rural Affairs, Farmers Market Coalition, Fay Penn Economic Development, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, Maine Organic Farming and Gardening Association, Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, National Center for Appropriate Technology, Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group, Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides, Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association, Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Slow Food, USA, and NOFA VT. The Vermont Women’s Fund also provided financial support.