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From the President by Ben Burkett: As I write this message, Mississippi, Louisiana and other states near and north of the Gulf Coast are recovering from the floods left from Hurricane Isaac. While many regions of the
country have been parched by drought this summer, our state was in relatively good shape. Suddenly we’re fighting the opposite dilemma – too much water, too quickly. The reinforced levees around New Orleans held, but another tropical storm has left turmoil in its wake, with homes and streets and fields flooded.
This fall was particularly busy with extensive travel. At the beginning of November, I attended the Community Food Security Coalition Conference in Oakland, CA, where I participated in two workshops. In one, Alicia Harvie (Farm Aid), Steve Schwartz, Kathy Ozer (NFFC) and I discussed credit access and its impacts. In another, Joel Greeno (ARMPPA), John Peck (Family Farm Defenders), Mike Hudson (Hudson Fish Company) and I discussed farmer and fisher cooperatives. George Naylor, past NFFC president, Florida farm workers and I joined the Coalition for Immokalee Workers on their march to Trader Joe’s Supermarket.
From the President by Ben Burkett: I was one of 130 guests invited by President Obama to participate in the forum on jobs and economic growth at the White House on December 3. Along with Rhonda Perry from Missouri Rural Crisis Center, I represented NFFC and the Rural Coalition. We broke up into session groups of 25 and I was the only person representing agriculture in the entrepreneurial business session. On the issue of credit we discussed banks not lending to small businesses and farmers despite the millions of dollars in stimulus funds dispersed, something noted by everyone in the room. President Obama called on Rhonda to speak during the Q&A, and she said, “Many times and many places around this country, in rural communities, independent family farmers are the biggest bang for our buck in terms of creating jobs, with independent businesses that depend on farmers, from the people we buy our seed from, to the people we use to process
our meat, to the transportation system to haul our grain.” I presented to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner
a report by Jerry Pennick (Land Assistance Fund) on credit issues describing how credit unions can support rural economies; Secretary Geithner promised to follow up with us later. Despite the fact that there
were only two of us there on behalf of family farmers I felt we did a good job representing our organizations and the agricultural community.
Change is in the air: good change, bad change, generic change, political change (or not), climate change. By mid February, NFFC
will have a new president and a strategic plan that will encourage more involvement of our groups and groups’ members in the decisions and actions of NFFC. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved with NFFC during my tenure for all the support and many opportunities to learn from you and represent family farmers in many forums here in the US and around the world.
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