NYFC March 2014 Newsletter

We’ve kicked off the spring with an exciting win at the USDA!

Thanks to feedback from our coalition, the Farm Service Agency is making key changes to its facilities loan program that will increase access to diversified farmers. Want to be involved in NYFC’s next policy win?  Now’s your chance – we’re calling for applications for a new Policy Analyst for the coalition, one of two new positions.

In this March newsletter, we welcome Rachel Armstrong, attorney and founder of Farm Commons, to the Farmers Forum to answer your farm legal questions. We’ll report back from the Agricultural Outlook Forum in Washington, DC, and fill you in on the exciting events of our chapters across the country.



Rachel Armstrong, Founder of Farm Commons, on the Farmers Forum This Week

rachelarmstrongWe are excited to welcome Rachel Armstrong, attorney and founder of Farm Commons, to the Farmers Forum this week (March 24th-28th) to answer your farm legal questions!

Running a strong farm business is easier with the help of a knowledgeable attorney who truly understands the business of farming and can help farmers meet their financial and social goals. Rachel is generously offering legal advice on the “Legal” section of the Farmers Forum this week, so head over now to post your questions now (it just takes a moment to register before you can post)!

Rachel started Farm Commons because she thinks farmers deserve specialized legal information that addresses the direct market farm’s unique goals.  The organization provides business legal services to farmers, creates useful legal education resources, and educates attorneys on issues relating to community-based farmers around the country.

Rachel has experience helping farmers establish an LLC or corporation to help meet their farm goals. In particular, she is skilled at negotiating ways for unrelated partners and individuals to create a long-term partnership or farm transition. Leases are an important part of Rachel’s legal services, and her farming experience helps her craft a lease that resolves problems before they start. Rachel has also studied conservation easements extensively.

USDA Responds to NYFC Feedback with Major Changes to FSA Loan Program

Ben ShuteThe USDA announced major revisions to its Farm Storage Facility Loan (FSFL) Program, a major win for young farmers who specialize in diversified operations and CSA’s.  Thanks to the efforts of NYFC and its allies, the new program is now more flexible and useable for a much broader set of farms needing to build or upgrade their storage facilities.


“An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Farming in Massachusetts” Now Released!

NESFP Guide coverOur friends at the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project in Massachusetts just published their new guide for aspiring MA farmers, entitled “An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Farming in Massachusetts.”

The guide covers everything from finding land to business management to resources on developing farming infrastructure.  While the guide is intended for Massachusetts-based farmers (and many of the resources are state-specific), anyone looking for advice and ideas should take a look.  The guide can be downloaded for free, either as one complete packet or as individual fact sheets.  Whether you’re just starting to think about farming or planning on expanding your operating farm, this information is for you!

Download it for free from the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project or from the Beginning Farmer Network of Massachusetts website.  You can also contact New Entry directly at nesfp@tufts.edu or 978-654-6745.

NYFC Represents Young Farmers at the 2014 Agricultural Outlook Forum

Ag Outlook 1Last month, NYFC was invited to participate in a plenary session with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack during the 2014 Agricultural Outlook Forum -  an annual USDA conference on the economic outlook of commodity agriculture and trade. 


Ally Spotlight: Coalition of Immokalee Workers – Fighting for Food Justice

CIW protest 2The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is an organization that works towards food justice and corporate social responsibility, as well as working to end human trafficking and other labor abuses in the agriculture system.

One of their biggest projects is the Campaign for Fair Food, which educates consumers about exploitation of farm workers and works to end this exploitation. So far, they have managed to reach Fair Food Agreements with several large food retailers including McDonald’s, Subway, and Whole Foods.

The CIW was founded in 1993 as a small group of workers who met weekly “to discuss how to better their community and their lives.” Through three work stoppages and a month-long hunger strike, the CIW helped to win higher wages for tomato growers. By 1998, farmers had won raises of 13-25%, bringing their salaries back to pre-1980 levels. However, the workers’ pay was still well below the poverty line.

In 2001, they started the Campaign for Fair Food, and organized a boycott of Taco Bell. They demanded that the fast food chain pay an extra penny per pound of tomatoes picked, and to only buy from “…growers who signed an enforceable code of conduct that addressed human rights violations in the fields.”  After four years, Taco Bell finally agreed to the demands and asked other fast-food corporations to do the same. Other companies such as McDonald’s, Burger King, and Subway soon reached similar agreements with the CIW.

CIW protestThe CIW also works to end involuntary servitude. Their Anti-Slavery Campaign has helped with the discovery, investigation, and prosecution of various farm slavery operations across the U.S. They have also helped to pass legislation such as the 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Their efforts have earned them the recognition of the U.S. State Department as well as the White House.

In 2010, the CIW and the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange signed an agreement that created the Fair Food Program, which involved a wage increase of a penny per pound of tomatoes for Florida farmworkers and a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment and forced labor, among other things.  A separate non-profit, the Fair Foods Standards Council, was created to oversee that the Fair Food Program standards were implemented.

In October, the CIW received the “Freedom from Want” medal at the Roosevelt Institute’s Four Freedoms Awards. These awards honor people who embody the Four Freedoms described by Franklin D. Roosevelt – freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

Yet there is still much more work to be done, said Greg Asbed of the CIW in the organization’s acceptance speech. “Our work is not done until all farmworkers live free from want,” said Asbed. “Until all farmworkers live free from fear and until all farmworkers live free to enjoy the dignified life they deserve for the hard work they do.”

Introducing Withywindle Farm in West Wareham, MA

Withywindle Farm - chickenWithywindle Farm is a tiny micro-farm in West Wareham, Massachusetts – a little place full of magic and whimsy and goats and chickens and veggies and a pair of farmers who want more out of life than what commercials offer us as the “American Dream.”


Upcoming Farm Law Webinar: Adding Value to Farm Products

Farm Commons  - weeding farm employeeThe latest Farm Law Webinar is coming up for beginning farmers (and experienced farmers alike!) interested in learning more about how the law impacts their farm. Farm Commons is an organization dedicated to providing proactive legal services for sustainable agriculture, and we’re thrilled to help promote this webinar project.


President Obama’s 2015 Budget Includes Strong Commitment to Young Farmers

Obama presents budgetLast week, President Obama submitted to Congress his budget request for fiscal year 2015. The $3.9 trillion proposal includes nearly $24 billion in discretionary spending for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


New Farmer Summit April 4-5!


Attention Midwestern Farmers! MOSES and Renewing the Countryside are hosting a New Farmer Summit April 4-5th outside Madison, WI!