Since launching our One Million Acres for the Future campaign in November 2021 with the support of Chipotle, the Young Farmers’ team has been working hard to build power for our farmer leaders and to change federal policy—and we have started to see this work pay off!
After a year of organizing and advocating for policy change in D.C., we have a lot to celebrate. We want to pause to recognize the contributions that hundreds of growers and land stewards around the country have made to this campaign, our wins, and the exciting opportunities we have ahead of us in 2023.
The goal of the One Million Acres for the Future campaign is to secure a historic investment in equitable land policy from Congress in the 2023 Farm Bill. To reach this goal, we launched a two-year, 100-farmer Land Advocacy Fellowship, and are flying with these farmers to the capital in March so that they can share their needs, challenges, and ideas for the future of agriculture with their Members of Congress.
Last year, these growers and our staff held nearly 100 in-district meetings with key Members of Congress; met with high-ranking USDA and White House officials; received high-profile press coverage; coordinated with our partners to publish a land policy platform in English and Spanish; and saw USDA create a novel land access funding opportunity for farmers directly in line with our asks. And we’re just getting started!
We take this time to not only celebrate, but to remain accountable to our values and the plan we laid out at the launch of this campaign. Federal policy change is incremental and hard won, and we believe that the campaign wins we have seen throughout the past year are proof that our theory of change is working.
Led by and for farmers, land stewards, and growers
Farmer voices are the force driving the One Million Acres campaign. Our land team is committed to elevating their stories through advocacy education, relationship building with key Members of Congress, press outreach, participation in 2023 Farm Bill hearings, and coaching them to tell their personal stories through op-ed writing.
In March 2022, we onboarded 100 current and aspiring farmers for a two-year, paid advocacy and leadership fellowship. The majority Black, lndigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) Fellows have been organized into four regional cohorts to build solidarity across the country, and have participated in seven national and regional bilingual sessions where we’ve told stories, worked with partner organizations, and learned about advocacy, the farm bill, strategic communications, and general agricultural policy.
Fellows have met with their Members of Congress for in-district meetings, testified in official hearings with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and published op-eds in national and regional outlets to highlight the top issue facing young farmers and ranchers today: access to land.
In both April and August (months during which most Members of Congress are in their home states for in-districts meetings) Fellows participated in 85 meetings across 29 different states – this is the most we’ve ever seen our network participate in during any given year!
While we are still in the midst of Fellows writing and submitting their op-eds to regional press outlets, Fellows in California, Colorado, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania have already published their op-eds in major news outlets or spoken directly about their experiences on podcasts or radio.
In late April of this year, Michigan Organizer, Payge Lindow, alongside Land Advocacy Fellows Candius Elliott of Workin Roots Farm and Detra Iverson of Love n Labor Botanicals, represented our 2023 Farm Bill priorities during the first farm bill field hearing in Lansing, Michigan. This was one of thirteen hearings across nine states where farmers in our network represented our policy priorities.
“It’s so important to make sure that young farmers and farmers of color are present at these sorts of hearings to make sure our priorities are heard,” said Lindow. The first hearing featured a wide range of preselected panelists including urban and rural farmers, tribal members, conservationists, food hub managers, and other food and agricultural professionals. Some of those testifying spoke to the importance of crafting a 2023 Farm Bill that includes more accessible resources for young and BIPOC farmers, including land and capital.”
Centering BIPOC voices and BIPOC-led partner organizations and advocating for policy change that will be accessible to BIPOC farmers
The One Million Acres for the Future campaign would not be possible without the thought leadership and support of many key partners. In 2022, we strengthened close partnerships with BIPOC-led organizations working on federal policy and coordinated with numerous other federal policy advocacy organizations working toward equitable policy change, including the Intertribal Agriculture Council, Federation of Southern Cooperatives, National Family Farm Coalition, Rural Coalition, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Rural Advancement Fund International, American Farmland Trust, Natural Resources Defense Council, and more. Through a full-day virtual convening, many phone calls, and even a few in-person conversations, we worked to align our policy asks.
This partner work, along with the results of our 2022 National Young Farmer Survey report and federal policy setting process, informed the creation of our land policy platform, which we published over the summer in both Spanish and English.
Driven by our goal to achieve bold policy change and designed around political possibility
All of the work we have done to date is dependent on, and ties back into, our grassroots work. We have been following up on the meetings farmers have on the ground to back up their conversations and share additional information on the Hill.
In 2022, our policy team held meetings with members of the Biden-Harris Administration’s agriculture team, along with numerous high-level USDA meetings, including with USDA Deputy Secretary Jewel Bronaugh, Farm Service Agency Administrator Zach Ducheneaux, Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) Under Secretary Robert Bonnie, USDA General Counsel Janie Hipp, and FPAC Deputy Under Secretary Gloria Montaño Green. We are also in regular communication with Sarah Campbell, the National Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program Coordinator. We were also busy on the Hill having follow up meetings with Congressional offices to share our policy priorities and cultivate champions.
In July, we were invited to have one of our members give testimony to the House Agriculture Committee on the intersection of land access and finance. Our staff supported farmer Julia Asherman, of Rag & Frass Farm in Georgia, in delivering a powerful live statement as well as written comments. And we followed up this opportunity with detailed recommendations for how Members of Congress can address this issue.
A major victory
On August 24, 2022, the USDA announced the Increasing Land, Capital, and Market Access Program, a historic $300 million funding opportunity for projects that will increase land access for underserved farmers, including funding for innovative ways to connect available land to underserved producers who have challenges in accessing land, or restore lands into the hands of those who have been underserved. This program was directly aligned with our policy platform and top farm bill asks.
Recognizing the immense opportunity but lack of awareness and capacity on the ground, Young Farmers mobilized a rapid response with partner organizations and community groups to conduct outreach and offer grant writing support to organizations to ensure equitable access to the program.
You can read more about our response and success on our blog. As a result of this effort, we:
- Supported 19 applications, the majority of which were submitted by BIPOC-led organizations, ultimately requesting over $130 million and involving 91 partner organizations across 30 states.
- Submitted a letter on behalf of 99 partners asking USDA to allow more time for equitable access to program funding. We received an extension of three weeks which was a game changer for organizations applying.
- Conducted outreach to 339 organizations to ensure program awareness and supported 92 organizations with technical assistance.
- Held a series of listening sessions with organizations and farmers in December to learn how we can advocate for future funding opportunities like this to better meet the needs of our network.
We are now evaluating what we have learned, holding meetings with Hill, USDA, and Administration leadership to share our response, and gathering feedback from partners and farmers about how we can advocate for an improved version of this in the farm bill.
More campaign highlights
Our efforts, and the results we’ve already achieved, are being recognized. Our work has been amplified by major news outlets such as NPR, the New York Times (twice!), CNBC, Mother Jones, and more. We even had musician Jack Johnson advocate for our Land Campaign during his 2022 tour! To strengthen and continue our work we’ve also brought on new team members, developed new strategic partnerships, and leveraged a major investment from Chipotle to help make our work more accessible.
In October, Alita Kelly joined our team from Western Michigan to become our new Land Organizing Director. Among many other accomplishments, Alita helped to co-found the West Michigan Farmer of Color Land Fund to empower land sovereignty for Black and Brown growers.
We also took a big step for the campaign by choosing to work with Blue State, a campaign communications firm that will be supporting us with campaign strategy, digital and content support, mobilization tactics, strategic communications, and paid media.
Building on Chipotle’s major investment in our One Million Acres campaign, we’ve also secured $35,000 for a BIPOC Fellow Assistance Fund as well as $7,500 for translation to make the Fellowship more accessible for farmers whose primary language is Spanish.
While we have a lot to celebrate and reflect on already, we know there is so much more work to be done. 2023 is going to be a major year for our campaign organizing efforts, as the 2023 Farm Bill will dictate U.S. land policy more than any other policy decision over the next decade. We need to ensure that Congress makes the historic investment in equitable land access that our farmers are calling for.
We’re building towards our biggest young farmer fly-in in history happening on March 8, 2023. And we’re working our relationships on the Hill and identifying congressional champions to draft marker bills that will guide the farm bill outcomes. Even once the 2023 Farm Bill comes together the work will go on—we’ll be looking closely at implementation after it’s been signed into law.
This is a pivotal moment, and we’re ready to dig in, amplify the voices of young farmers and ranchers, and win the policy solutions we need for a more bright and just future for agriculture.
If you are excited to join us in this advocacy effort, sign up to receive updates (like this one) and action alerts here: p2a.co/land!