Farm Aid: Does it Love All Farmers Equally?

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Farm Sense with Clinton Griffiths ( Farm Journal )

COMMENTARY: It's no secret in our industry, that for the last several years, incomes have been on the decline. Nationally net farm income is down more than 40%. According to some estimates, the midwestern states have seen incomes fall by 60% or more. 

Which are numbers, I'm sure will be shared at this year's 30th anniversary Farm Aid concert.The event as many know, started by Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp during the farm crisis of the 1980's and is today is a nonprofit with the stated mission of helping farmers and farm families.

Several performers were recently asked about it at a tribute to Willie in Nashville.

Musician Margo Price, a recording artist on Farm Aid said, "I've seen the farming crisis affect my family firsthand and it was really hard to watch my grandfather and my uncles and my father all lose their farm back in the 80s." 

Jack Johnson, also a recording artist for Farm Aid echoing that sentiment saying, "You know farmers are the heroes and we need to show them that we care about them and support them." 

While the musical lineup is always top notch, I find it interesting that the charity has raised in the neighborhood of $50 million over the last three decades, but I don't hear more about it from the farm fields I travel.

Maybe that's because its focus has changed over time.

Steve Earle, a Farm Aid artist confirming that saying, "Farm Aid has had to change directions a little bit because we've finally figured out that you couldn't just make it about categorically protecting family farms." 

He says it's become about stewardship of the land and what's in the food that we eat.

The organization's annual report says Farm Aid responded to more than a thousand family farmers through their resource network and hotline last year. 

Public disclosures show it gave out roughly $700,000 to not just farmers, but their farm advocates and farm organizations with just $400,000 of it going to grants and direct assistance in 2017.

Farm Aid touts its work protesting factory farms and informing people about the dangers of GMO food, global trade, and industrial livestock operations. They lobbied against the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) and argued for GMO labeling. 

Farms are facing tough times, but I don't think we should be picking and choosing who to help. I support farmers no matter the crop, no matter the size because it takes all of us to feed a hungry world. Do it however you like. Stay in business and stay true to your passions, but I take offense to raising money off of all farmers when the goal is to put others out of business. 

As a charity Farm Aid's information is all online. You can read their financial disclosures at this link