Young farmers from across the U.S. head to the Capitol to request funding for critical agriculture programs


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:​ Jessica Manly, National Young Farmers Coalition
press@youngfarmers.org, 518-643-3564 ext. 722

 

Washington, D.C. (March 9, 2020) – Young, organic farmers and ranchers across the country are struggling against major obstacles to building successful careers in agriculture, including access to quality, affordable farmland and technical assistance. The National Young Farmers Coalition (Young Farmers), in partnership with Organic Valley, is flying nine young, organic farmers to Washington D.C. on March 9 and 10, 2020 to meet with their Members of Congress about these crucial issues and priorities for FY 2021 appropriations. 

Young farmers are innovative, and they are on the cutting-edge of entrepreneurship and ecological stewardship. According to our 2017 National Young Farmer Survey, they are 17 times more likely to be organic than the national average. However, challenges facing young farmers threaten the future of the organic industry if not solved. 

Farmland is prohibitively expensive and climate change threatens their ability to make a living off the land. We’re bringing nine of the brightest young farmers from across the country to ensure Congress funds key farm bill programs that will help them overcome these challenges. Farmers will be asking for funding for the Tenure, Ownership, and Transition of Agricultural Land (TOTAL) Survey, Conservation Operations (CO), the National Organic Program (NOP), and other 2018 Farm Bill programs they rely on to build successful, sustainable farm businesses.

 

We need more data on our nation’s farmland
Land access continues to be the top barrier to young farmers’ success and we can’t solve this major challenge without more accurate data on who exactly owns U.S. farmland. In the 2018 Farm Bill, Congress tasked USDA with completing an updated Tenure, Ownership, and Transition of Agricultural Land (TOTAL) Survey, the results of which will provide comprehensive data on farmland ownership, tenure, transition, and entry of beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers as a follow-on to the Census of Agriculture (Sec. 12607). Access to this information is crucial to better understand the policies and trends that lead to secure land tenure and thriving farm businesses. 

To ensure that USDA can produce a robust analysis leading to better access and more secure land tenure for young and socially disadvantaged farmers alike, we ask that Congress fund the survey with the full $3 million for FY21. 

 

Farmers and ranchers need additional support to implement sustainable practices 

Young farmers have a strong environmental ethic, with 75% of respondents to our 2017 National Young Farmers Survey describing their practices as sustainable. Many of the practices they use, from cover crops to rotational grazing to reduced tillage, have soil health and carbon sequestration benefits that have a climate impact far beyond the farm gate. Funding from CO enables NRCS field staff to provide direct technical assistance and planning support for farmers and ranchers across the country as they implement voluntary conservation practices. 

To ensure that our nation’s farmers and ranchers are adequately assisted in stewarding natural resources and combating climate change, we ask that Congress fund Conservation Operations at

$840 million for FY21.

Young farmers rely on the National Organic Program to meet growing demand

Seventeen percent of respondents to our 2017 national survey of young farmers were certified organic (compared to about 1% of all farmers nationwide). These numbers continue to grow—in the latest USDA certified organic survey, the number certified organic farms grew by 11% in just one year. By setting standards and overseeing certification, NOP protects the opportunity for young and beginning farmers to provide their customers with products they can feel confident in while acquiring a premium price for their efforts. 

To keep up with the burgeoning demand for organics, we ask that Congress fully fund the NOP at $20 million for FY21.

“Congress has made significant progress in recent years towards better serving beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers, and we commend them for their efforts. However, we cannot afford to delay in recruiting, training, and supporting this next generation of business owners and environmental stewards,” says Sanaz Arjomand, Young Farmers’ Federal Policy Director. “Federal funding plays a critical role in furthering this support for young farmers, and we are hopeful that Congress will act on funding these crucial farm bill programs.”

“There is no doubt organic was a path for us to farming in dairy. I do not think we could do it without the organic premiums. Organic just fit better for how we approach farming,” said Alexis MacDonald, a young Organic Valley dairy farmer of Bo Lait Farm in Washington, Maine who will be joining the cohort. “Organic is part of the story for a lot of beginning farmers, and that’s why we’re in Washington D.C. advocating for strong funding of the National Organic Program.”

 

Fly-in participants include:

Sedrick Rowe, Rowe Organic Farm, Albany, GA
Moretta Browne, Berkeley Basket CSA, Berkeley CA
Chloe Diegel, Robinette Farms, Martell NE
Mandy Mobry, R&G Miller & Sons Inc, Columbus, WI
Sarah Longstreth, Good Stead Farm, Hope MI
Olivia Cleveland, This Mountain Farm, Henegar, AL
Alexis MacDonald, Bo Lait Farm, Washington, ME
Andrea Davis-Cetina, Quarter Acre Farm, Easton, MD
Maggie Pounds, Simple Abundance Farm, Hutchinson, KS

 

Farmers are scheduled to meet with their full delegations while on the Hill Tuesday March 10, 2020, including:

To learn more about Young Farmers’ FY 2021 appropriations priorities, please visit our website.

The National Young Farmers Coalition (Young Farmers) is a national grassroots network of young farmers fighting for a brighter, more equitable future for U.S. agriculture. Visit Young Farmers on the web at www.youngfarmers.org, and on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

Organic Valley is America’s largest cooperative of organic farmers and one of the nation’s leading organic brands. Organized in 1988, it represents more than 1,800 farmers in 34 U.S. states, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom and achieved $1.1 billion in 2018 sales. Focused on its founding mission of saving family farms through organic farming, Organic Valley produces a wide range of organic dairy, egg and produce products. With its regional model, milk is produced, bottled and distributed right in the region where it is farmed to ensure fewer miles from farm to table and to support our local economies. For further information visit www.organicvalley.coop. Organic Valley is also @OrganicValley on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

 

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