During yesterday’s successful concert, Farm Aid leaders asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to support measures that help family farmers thrive.

In the 1990s, broken farm policies and consolidated corporate food production forced nearly 80% of hog farmers out of business. According to Farm Aid, similar circumstances are causing dairy farmers to be paid less than half of what it costs to produce milk, and the United States risks losing thousands of dairy farmers this year alone.

At yesterday’s concert, Farm Aid representatives reiterated their request for the USDA to set a price for milk that covers the cost of production, which would guarantee dairy farmers a fair price that keeps them on their land. Farm Aid also asked the USDA to stop using taxpayer dollars to fund new and larger factory farms.

“Family farmers are the first rung of the economic ladder in this country,” said Farm Aid Founder and President Willie Nelson. “Against all odds, they have persevered and found ways to stay on their land, growing good food for all of us and creating strong communities. It’s time now for policy to rise to meet their needs with fair prices and support for their innovations.”

“We invite all Americans to join us in pressing for food production that protects our environment, our health and our economy,” added Executive Director Carolyn Mugar. “We are encouraged by the opportunity the new administration in Washington offers us all for making the needed changes.”

At the concert, USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan joined farmers and food advocates in a conversation about the many ways family farmers are rebuilding local and regional food systems and reenergizing the economy.

“Farmers face overwhelming challenges as they work each day to put food on our tables, and Farm Aid’s ongoing efforts on behalf of family farmers have helped put a human face on this vocation,” she said. “At the same time, there is a bright future for small- and mid-sized producers because there is an agricultural renaissance taking place in America. More and more consumers are wanting to better connect with their producers, and USDA’s new Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative helps to accomplish that goal.”

For Your Organic Bookshelf: Farm Aid: A Song for America

Photo: Paul Natkin/Photo Reserve Inc. 2009