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2015-01-22

Farm Aid SA summit to the rescue

Special to the Courier

Farm Aid recently announced that it plans to convene a Texas drought summit on Thursday, Jan. 29, in San Antonio. The full-day meeting will take place immediately prior to the Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (TOFGA) annual conference, which kicks off Friday, Jan. 30, in San Antonio.
"Every week, we hear from family farmers facing challenges on their farms brought on by chronic drought. This state of persistent drought is becoming the new normal for many farmers and ranchers across the country - especially those in the south and west," said Joel Morton, Farm Aid's farm advocate. "Farm Aid has a long history of delivering immediate help to farmers in need, but as weather extremes become more common, the solution lies in increasing the resilience of family farms."
As this record drought continues, production costs rise, pushing farmers out of business and off the land. Small- and mid-sized family farms - those that are actively building local food systems - are especially threatened by ongoing drought conditions. While those without crop insurance tend to be most affected, even farmers with crop insurance are only reimbursed for a portion of their losses. With pastures scorched and water scarce, livestock and dairy farmers have been forced to idle their fields and purchase feed to sustain their animals. Many have sold portions, or all, of their herds.
The summit will bring farmers, ranchers and service providers together to focus on immediate drought-response needs, as well as strategies for building long-term resilience. The summit seeks to connect farmers and ranchers with disaster-related services in Texas and across the country while providing a space for farmers and ranchers to share experiences and lessons learned from the ongoing drought. The summit also aims to strengthen the network of disaster-related service providers nationwide, helping to identify disaster-related service gaps and inefficiencies and the steps needed to correct them.
Farm Aid funds will provide travel support and scholarships for farmer and rancher attendees. The summit is being organized with input and expertise from Texas farm-based organizations, including TOFGA, the Sustainable Food Center in Austin and the San Antonio office of the National Center for Appropriate Technology, as well as national advocates and disaster response experts such as the Farmers' Legal Action Group and the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA.
Following Farm Aid's day-long summit, TOFGA will host a full slate of workshops as part of its annual conference. Workshops will focus on building resilience (biological, social and economic), addressing water-related issues and preparing for increasing weather extremes.
Farmers who wish to apply for a scholarship to cover conference registration and travel expenses can do so online at www.tofga.org/conferencesummitscholarship.
Farm Aid's mission is to build a vibrant, family farm-centered system of agriculture in America. Farm Aid artists and board members Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews host an annual concert to raise funds to support Farm Aid's work with family farmers and to inspire people to choose family farm food.
For 30 years, Farm Aid, with the support of the artists who contribute their performances each year, has raised $48 million to support programs that help farmers thrive, expand the reach of the Good Food Movement, take action to change the dominant system of industrial agriculture and promote food from family farms.