Willie Nelson’s Farm Aid Announces a ‘Major Farmer Mobilization’ in Washington in 2023

by Emily Morgan
Photo by: Taylor Hill / Stringer

Although Willie Nelson will be singing to his audience during the Farm Aid festival, he also plans to send a direct message to another group: lawmakers in Washington.

Ahead of the annual benefit concert for family farmers in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Saturday, the organization also announced plans for “a major farmer mobilization in Washington” in March 2023. The mobilization will advocate for federal support of climate-resilient agriculture.

The march, currently set for the week of March 6, poses to be “a mobilization the likes of which we have not seen since the 1970s, tentatively called Farmers for Climate, a rally for resilience,” announced Farm Aid cultural impact director Michael Stewart Foley. He announced the plans for action during a live-streamed press conference ahead of the concert.

Farm Aid co-founder and board member John Mellencamp was also involved in the press conference. During the meeting, he recalled when he and Willie Nelson made the trek to Washington D.C. to call on lawmakers to act.

Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp make plans to call on Wahington to stand up for America’s farmers

“[Willie Nelson] and I made the effort” to testify before a Congressional subcommittee in the 1980s on behalf of family farmers. And he left convinced that “the government … doesn’t care about you, doesn’t care about anything but greed,” he said.

“So it’s going to take good people like you,” Mellencamp said to the audience of farmers and activists at the pre-concert event.

“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,” he added.

The mobilization effort resulted from discussions among “a coalition of 35 farm, food, climate [and] social justice organizations that are actively working on this,” said Foley, citing Farm Aid’s partnership with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

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

That legislation, passed every five years, decides where federal funding for various agricultural programs will go.

“Congress needs to get the message that farmers are counting on a Farm Bill that delivers climate solutions — climate solutions that center racial justice, that address on-farm climate challenges and prioritize what works for family farmers,” Foley added.

“So to make sure that Congress gets this message, farmers are going to deliver it in person, peacefully, I might add,” Foley said. “Over three days the week of March 6, farmers are going to march, they are going to rally — and we will be there with them. There will be music. We hope some of the artists who come to Farm Aid every year will join us.”