Three hundred and fifty Farmers Union members made the trip to Washington, D.C. this week to push for passage of a farm bill that supports family agriculture, strong protections from international trade market disruptions, and expansion of the American grown biofuel market. The group visited all 535 congressional offices to deliver their personal stories as to how federal policies impact their families and communities.
“Family farmers and ranchers are in the midst of the worst decline in the farm economy in decades, and they want to see action from their federal representatives,” said NFU President Roger Johnson at the Fly-In. “It is critical right now for family farm agriculture to have the support of Congress and the administration. And that support can come through immediate passage of the farm bill and movement on a long-term, legislative solution that protects family farmers from the significant damage occurring to our trade markets.”
Here’s what some of the lawmakers they met with are saying:
“There’s a crisis in the making for many North Dakota farmers, and they deserve better than being treated like collateral damage in the administration's trade war,” said U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. “Amid ongoing trade uncertainty, farmers and ranchers need a strong, bipartisan bill that protects crop insurance, gives growers much-needed predictability, and expands— not shrinks— their access to global markets.”
Net farm income has plummeted by nearly 50% over the past five years, leaving a majority of family farmers earning negative farm income, many of them in severe financial strain, and even more without the opportunity to farm again next year. On top of low farm income, the administration’s trade war with the world has further depressed commodity prices and caused damage to vital trade markets for U.S. farm products.
“Colorado farmers and ranchers want to compete and grow in local and global markets—not be stifled by erratic policy from Washington,” explained U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado. "In light of low commodity prices and persistent drought, we worked hard in the Senate to pass a bipartisan Farm Bill with a reliable farm safety net and fully funded conservation programs. Instead of acting responsibly, this administration’s trade war is inflicting long-term damage on our agricultural economy. This damage—and continued market uncertainty—make it all the more pressing to send a bipartisan Farm Bill to the President’s desk. "
U.S. Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota said Congress must pass the 2018 Farm Bill ahead of the Sept. 30 expiration of the current farm bill.
“The farm economy in Minnesota and across the country has been hit hard by years of low prices and now is dealing with harmful trade disruptions,” said Sen. Smith. “Our producers need a Farm Bill that will get them through the current hard times and provide them with the certainty they need to plan their operations into the future.”
Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Charles Grassley of Iowa, and John Hoeven of North Dakota, and Reps. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts and Chellie Pingree of Maine also spoke to the importance of congressional action on behalf of family farmers.
While in Washington, D.C. for the Fly-In, the National Farmers Union Beginning Farmer Institute held its first meeting.
Nineteen beginning farmers participated in the two-day session.
“Aging demographics in agriculture is one of our nation’s great challenges, and it underscores the importance of our BFI program,” Johnson said. “BFI builds on Farmers Union’s commitment to developing leaders in the next generation of family agriculture and celebrating the diversity in agriculture production today.”
The first session’s agenda focused on advocacy, marketing, and farm credit. Participants also toured local D.C. Greens’ K Street Farm in Washington, D.C., to learn about food access and insecurity.
NFU’s BFI program also provides beginning farmers and ranchers with hands-on technical training that emphasizes many of the challenges beginning farmers may face in their careers, enabling them to be successful in their operations and in this industry.
The beginning farmers and ranchers participating in the 2018-19 BFI program:
- Deanne Boyer, Pennsylvania
- Rachel Brann, Minnesota
- Leslie Caccamese, California
- Jill Chi, Minnesota
- Konnor Dehmlow, Colorado
- Danielle Endvick, Wisconsin
- Jesse Endvick, Wisconsin
- Kat Johnson, Virginia
- Amanda Martin, North Dakota
- Tyler Neubauer, North Dakota
- Christina Pegg, Hawaii
- Sarah Rachor, Montana
- Elliott Salazar, Colorado
- Rebecca Sheahan, Delaware
- Sara Stenuf, New York
- Dion Stepanski, Michigan
- Molly Stepanski, Michigan
- Olivia Terry, Colorado
- Jeffrey Werner, Alaska
Golden Triangle honorees
Farmers Union members recognized 26 lawmakers for their support of family farmers, ranchers and rural communities.
“The Golden Triangle Award recognizes farm and food champions in Congress that display outstanding leadership on the issues that are important to both our industry and our organization. We’re appreciative of their insight and devotion to securing the nation’s food supply for the good of both American family farmers and consumers,” Johnson said.
The 2018 recipients of the Golden Triangle Award can be found here.