Willie Nelson’s Farm Aid Plans Organized Farmers March in Washington in 2023

Before Farm Aid pulled off its annual benefit concert in Raleigh, North Carolina on Sept. 24, featuring performances by Sheryl Crow, Chris Stapleton, Farm Aid co-founders John Mellencamp and Willie Nelson, board members Dave Matthews, Margo Price and more, the organization revealed its plan for “a major farmer mobilization” in Washington D.C. in March 2023 to advocate for federal support of climate resilient agriculture.

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Planned for the week of March 6, the march will act as a “mobilization the likes of which we have not seen since the 1970s, tentatively called Farmers for Climate, a rally for resilience,” according to Michael Stewart Foley, Farm Aid cultural impact director, in a statement. 

John Mellencamp, co-founder and board member of Farm Aid, said that he and fellow Farm Aid co-founder Nelson once tried to testify on behalf of family farmers before a congressional subcommittee in the 1980s, which left them discouraged and convinced that the government didn’t care. 

“It’s going to take good people like you,” said Mellencamp. “I’m going to come to Washington, D.C., because politics today in the United States has gotten so far out of hand. We’ll get a school bus and we’ll all go down together.”

Thew mobilization march is being planned by Farm Aid, along with 35 farm, food, climate and social justice organizations, according to Foley.

“Farm Aid hears farmer’s voices practically every day all year long,” added Foley. “What we need [is] for the Congress to hear those voices. It is especially critical now because Congress is starting to draft the next Farm Bill.” 

Passed every five years, the legislation determines federal funding for a number of agricultural programs. “Congress needs to get the message that farmers are counting on a Farm Bill that delivers climate solutions,” said Foley. “Climate solutions that address on-farm climate challenges and prioritize what works for family farmers. So to make sure that Congress gets this message, farmers are going to deliver it in person, peacefully, I might add.”

Founded by Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, and NeilYoung in 1985, Farm Aid helps bring awareness to the loss of family farms, advocate for fair farm policies, and collect funds to help keep these farms stay in business and more, through an annual benefit concert and other campaigns.

Adding on another $1 million, which was recently donated to Farm Aid by Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay during the Sept. 24 concert, the non-profit has raised more than $64 million to date to help sustain the U.S. agricultural system and family farms in the country.

Farmers are set to march for three days during the week of March 6, 2023. “They are going to rally, and we will be there with them,” said Foley. “There will be music. We hope some of the artists who come to Farm Aid every year will join us.”

Photo: Rachael Polack / The Oriel

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