Willie Nelson certainly knows a thing or to about sustainable food and farm policies —he's the leader of Farm Aid, and one of the most visible figures in the move towards biodiesel. So what does this onetime Kucinich supporter have to say to our President-Elect? Well, a lot. He released today on the farm-aid Web site an open letter to Obama, calling for policies that support a family farm system of agriculture. Will the next letter demand Obama reform marijuana laws? Hmmm...we shall see.Farm Aid, founded in 1985, is a non-partisan organization created to raise awareness about the loss of family farms and to raise funds to keep farm families on their land. With Nelson at the helm, farm aid boasts a board that includes Dave Matthews, John Mellencamp and Neil Young. They are best known for their yearly concert, Farm Aid, which is the organization's primary fund raising vehicle.
Obama on the Farm Bill
Nelson posted the following letter on the Farm Aid Web site today, calling for a reorganization of food and farm policies. President-elect Obama spoke out about such policies in March regarding the contested farm bill, saying "by opposing the bill, President Bush and John McCain are saying no to America's farmers and ranchers, no to energy independence, no to the environment, and no to millions of hungry people."
Obama supported the farm bill - otherwise known as the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 - for its increased funding for hunger and conservation programs, but admits it's far from perfect (McCain, for the record opposed the bill and call on Bush to Veto it).
"I believe in tighter payment limits and a ban on packer ownership of livestock," said Obama. "As president, I will continue to fight for the interests of America's family farmers and ranchers and ensure that assistance is geared towards those producers who truly need them, instead of large agribusinesses. But with so much at stake, we cannot make the perfect the enemy of the good."
Nelson will certainly be watching with the rest of us as Obama's policies towards agriculture and the environment evolve.
For now, here's the text of the letter from Nelson to the president-elect:
As President of Farm Aid, I'd like to take this opportunity to whole-heartedly congratulate you on your historic victory. I'd also like to offer you every resource that Farm Aid has available to assist you in creating a new farm and food policy that supports a sustainable family farm system of agriculture.
I started Farm Aid in 1985 when family farmers were being forced off their land as a result of federal policy that paved the way for industrial agriculture. This shift replaced independent family farmers with factory farms that have wreaked havoc on our communities, our environment and our public health.
There is broad agreement that our farm and food system needs to be drastically reworked. The good news is that the work of building an alternative to the industrial food system is well underway and Farm Aid is proud to have been a leader in this work, something we call the Good Food Movement. The Good Food Movement has grown and thrived almost entirely without the support of the federal government. However, now is the right moment for the leadership of our country to take a role in this important movement. In fact the future of our economy, our environment and our health demand it.
Our family farmers are a national resource with incredible potential to be the protagonists in solving the challenges we currently face. Family farmers are on the cutting edge of thriving local food systems and economies, alternative energy production and environmental stewardship. Family farmers are marketing the fruits of their labor close-to-home at farm stands, farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture programs (CSAs), helping local money to circulate in local communities where it can do the most good. Family farmers are growing green energy and harnessing the power of the sun and wind. They are transitioning to sustainable production methods to grow food that is good for our health and our planet. These steps are strengthening our local economies, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, protecting our natural resources and increasing our national security.
As the national organization working on behalf of family farmers for the last 23 years, Farm Aid has helped family farmers stay on the land, organized communities to fight factory farms in their own backyards, and educated eaters about the choices they can make to guarantee healthy, fresh food from family farms. Over our history, we have grown, partnered with, and sustained a network of more than four hundred grassroots farm and food organizations across the nation. As you begin to implement programs to support a family farm system of agriculture, Farm Aid and our vast resource network is here to work with you.
Now is the time for our country to recognize and call on family farmers' ingenuity, strength and value to our past and our future. We can have strong local economies, green energy, a clean environment, healthy citizens and good food—all of these start with family farmers. I look forward to working with you to make this vision of a family farm system of agriculture a reality.
More on the farm bill:
EWG Reveals Who Benefits Most from Direct Subsidy-Laden Farm Bill
In the Farm Bill, a "Factory Farm Incentive Program"
Congress Readying to Slash Farm Bill Funds Aimed at Protecting Water Quality and Wildlife