In March 2017, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) hosted its first farmer fly-in of the year. Growers from Oregon, Mississippi, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Alabama, and Georgia took time out of their busy schedules to bring food and farm issues to legislators’ attention as the FY 2018 appropriations cycle heats up.
Maud Powell of Wolf Gulch Farm—certified by Oregon Tilth—traveled to speak with representatives from the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. Powell spoke with Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, the ranking member on the US Senate Agricultural Appropriations Committee, about the importance of rural economic development programs. A veteran farmer with her husband in southern Oregon, she presented the case for the need for financial support structures for small farm business owners:
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“We work together in a cooperative of seven farms and bring our produce to the public exclusively through the use of CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture). Through the Value Added Producer Grant Program (VAPG) we’ve been able to build out our business thanks to planning and implementation grants. This kind of support is really critical in helping farmers like us scale-up and expand our markets.”
Priorities of the farmer fly-in included: working lands conservation, rural economic development programs, sustainable agriculture research, technical assistance for military veterans and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers and food safety training for small and mid-sized producers.
“Our goal is to amplify the voices of farmers and ranchers across the country,” said Greg Fogel, NSAC’s policy director. “It is their stories that are the most critical to explaining the importance of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs to legislators. These are the folks that are actually using the programs every day; they are the ones that will be most impacted by the decisions made here in DC.”