A Letter to Tom Vilsack

Congratulations on your appointment: your lifetime of experience in the politics of agriculture and rural america have served you well in securing this position.

We are young farmers in the heartland and we’ve built businesses growing food for our local communities. Most of the members of our coalition are new to agriculture – we aren’t part of the incumbent system of landownership and commodity farming – and so we are looking at a USDA that was not built to serve our needs.

Federal farm policy has shaped the agricultural landscape that we exist in now. Decisions made in Congress and carried out by the Department of Agriculture have resulted in the commodification of land and consolidation of landholdings, and the resultant erosion of rural economies; the systematic disenfranchisement of Black farmers; the continued erosion of our landscape and poisoning of our waterways; and the intensification of climate chaos.

We envision a different future for agriculture – we’re building that future right now – and we need the active participation of the USDA to create it on the scale that we need.

The future that we are working toward is one of access to the necessary work of farming and stewarding the land, one in which lack of inherited wealth doesn’t exclude anyone from this work if they want to do it. It is a future in which Indigenous people have control over more land and a primary voice in the conversation about land stewardship. It is a future in which Black people, whose labor and knowledge was first extracted from them to build the wealth of this nation, and then whose land was robbed from them through discriminatory USDA lending, are given systemic reparations. It is a future in which agriculture is a primary vehicle for restoring diversity, health, and balance to our ecosystems, waterways, and atmosphere.

Former-and Future-secretary Vilsack, we ask that you join us in building this future. There are entrenched voices that will seek to maintain the status quo of consolidation and erosion, that laugh us off when we request change. There is no reason that you need to be among those voices. The future we are building is much more resilient, vibrant and delicious (not to mention fun!) than theirs.

With respect,

Driftless Young Farmers Coalition Bailey Lutz, Listenmore Farm, Minnesota Sarah Cousins, Blazingstar, Decorah, Iowa Peter Kraus, Canoe Creek Produce, Decorah, Iowa Lara Mangialardi, McGreal Family Farm, Strawberry Point, Iowa Amy Dummer, Galesville, Wisconsin

Learn more about the Driftless Farmers Coalition at this link. Top image credit: Corey Coyle/CC BY 3.0.

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