Earlier this month, 300 National Farmers Union members from across the country joined together in Washington, DC to advocate for family farmers and farm bill priorities. Since 1909, National Farmers Union (NFU) members have gathered in the nation’s capital to make their voices heard and advocate for a fairer, more equitable food and agricultural system.
To kick off the activities, fly-in attendees arrived at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Jefferson Auditorium, where they were welcomed by NFU President Rob Larew. Along with talking about the history of the fly-in and the importance of the conversations in the coming days, Larew also addressed the devastation in Maui and the work that Hawai’i Farmers Union United is doing on the ground there, both in connecting residents with food and water, but also fundraising for the rebuilding efforts. To learn more about those efforts, visit hfuuhi.org.
Next, USDA Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Xochitl Torres Small welcomed the group from National Farmers Union. After that, NFU’s government relations team provided some advocacy tips and tricks, along with a deep dive into the pieces of legislation that our member-led legislative committee identified as priorities. Following that intro session, attendees watched a video our communications team put together that highlights how important our advocacy work is and the need for us to speak up together.
For the main event at USDA, Farmers Union members heard directly from Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. In his presentation, Secretary Vilsack talked about the need to think outside the box when it comes to ag policy and particularly how USDA programs are funded inside and outside of the farm bill. The Secretary also took some time to answer questions and engage with members directly—one of the hallmarks of NFU’s fly-in.
Closing out the time at USDA, attendees heard updates from USDA Marketing and Regulatory Programs (MRP), as well as Farm Production & Conservation (FPAC). A particularly important and helpful conversation happened with FSA Administrator Zach Ducheneaux. NFU has made advocating for more staffing at FSA offices a priority and Administrator Ducheneaux provided some input on how to best advocate for that staffing, sharing what he and his own staff are doing to remedy the issue.
Following NFU’s time at USDA, fly-in participants reconvened in the Russell Senate Office Building for a briefing with staff from the House and Senate Agriculture Committees. This was an important opportunity for staff and membership to discuss the farm bill and for fly-in attendees to provide direct feedback to the staff that are working on the upcoming farm bill.
To close out the day, NFU hosted a reception under the theme, “Gathering in the Spirit of Cooperation” that highlighted National Farmers Union’s deep roots in the cooperative movement and ongoing support for the cooperative business model. The reception was attended by several hundred NFU members, partners and friends. NFU is grateful for the generous support for this event provided by the following cooperative businesses and associations: Farm Credit, Organic Valley, NCBA CLUSA, CoBank, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Milk Producers Federation and CHS Inc.