Willie Nelson at Farm Aid 2018

Willie Nelson and Family performed at Farm Aid 2018. Photo by Brian Bruner/Bruner Photo and distributed by Farm Aid.

The good bad boys: Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews are doing something for farmers who have experienced flooding and other weather disasters this spring.

Their organization, Farm Aid, has activated $40,000 from their Family Farm Disaster Fund to provide immediate relief to farmers and farm families in need.

Working through local organizations, Farm Aid will issue $500 relief checks to farmers in Nebraska and Iowa. Announcements adding Wisconsin and Missouri farmers to that list were expected soon.

Farm Aid coordinators were also talking with groups in South Dakota, the Red River of the North region in Minnesota and North Dakota and Kansas about flooding and disasters in those states.

Across most of Minnesota and portions of North Dakota, the heavy snow pack melt had gone as well as could be expected. Enough dry days in a row to make farmers nervous about a coming drought, plus below-freezing temps at night have mostly limited major flooding across those regions.

In the other states mentioned above, flooding damage is estimated at over $1 billion.

“Farm Aid knows farmers and ranchers are being devastated by floods in the Midwest. We invite everyone to join us by donating to support farmers as they try to save their homes and businesses,” said Farm Aid President Willie Nelson in a news release. “We’ve heard from farmers that they can’t wait the months it takes for disaster assistance to come. We have too few family farmers left to lose even one to a weather disaster.”

Through hosting an annual festival to support Farm Aid’s work, more than $53 million has been raised to help farmers, said Farm Aid’s Advocacy & Farmer Services Director, Alicia Harvie, in a recent phone interview.

She pointed out that since 1985, Farm Aid has rallied to lift up the importance of family farm agriculture, and the critical role that family farmers play in local economies and rural America.

“We absolutely believe that it matters there are farmers, that we have many diverse kinds of farms and diverse faces from the folks who grow our food,” she said.

Rural communities rely on family farming, and there is resilience in rural communities when family farms thrive. Harvie says the reverse is also true – when farm families decrease, it takes wealth out of rural communities and makes entire regions of the country economically and societally depressed.

Farm Aid is providing a wealth of material for those who are interested. They have worked with the Farmers Legal Action Group of Minneapolis, as well as the Rural Advancement Foundation International to create ‘refrigerator’ resources.

The one page fact sheets that can be stuck with a magnet to the fridge, provide basic information for farmers and ranchers on how to document losses, respond to farm disaster and apply for disaster programs.

“I think a lot of farmers don’t know how much they could be eligible for, and it’s not insignificant money,” Harvie said.

“We always wish we could give more, but we know that in tandem with $500 of emergency infusion, plus information that helps them, that’s what we do.”

If you are a farmer who has been affected by the Midwest flooding, please visit farmaid.org/disaster for a list of resources available. To donate, please visit farmaid.org/disasterfund. Every dollar raised by the Family Farm disaster Fund will support local and regional organizations working on the ground to distribute emergency grants to farm families affected by the flooding in the Midwest and to offer resources that help farmers navigate their farm recovery options.