This year's harvest is one of financial hardship for many American farmers, and Tillamook County Creamery Association (TCCA) said it is stepping up to help. Throughout September, 10% of sales — up to $1.6 million — from Tillamook products will go toward grants that will save farms and farmland, provide financial relief directly to farmers, and support sound farming practices.
"At Tillamook, our purpose is to nourish lives in a growing world, and we want to support all farmers who share that mission," said Patrick Criteser, TCCA president and CEO. "We are launching the Tillamook 'All For Farmers' campaign and grant program by partnering with American Farmland Trust (AFT) and farmworker advocate, Eva Longoria, to raise awareness and dollars to help farmers survive a multi-year downturn and thrive in the future."
An award-winning actor, producer, director and activist, Longoria brings her star power and passion for American agriculture and the farmworker community to the Tillamook 'All For Farmers' effort. Longoria is a longtime advocate for farmers and farmworkers and is committed to doing her part to address the challenges facing agriculture today, Tillamook, Ore.-based TCCA said.
"I am thrilled to join forces with Tillamook and American Farmland Trust to support this new initiative and continue to advocate on behalf of farmers and farmworkers," said Longoria. "While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the fact that farmers and farmworkers are now 'essential,' they have always been essential to our food supply, and they deserve our continued support and protection."
AFT is a not-for-profit national organization with a mission to protect farmland, promote sound farming practices and keep farmers on the land. About half of the Tillamook 'All For Farmers' grants will go to preserve land on at-risk farms. The remainder of the funds will be used to award grants directly to farmers to help them access land that is ready for farming, improve land security, enhance farm viability, and/or adopt new farming practices, TCCA said.
"An average 2,000 acres of rich farmland is being lost each day to commercial development," said Beth C. Sauerhaft, Ph.D., vice president, programs, AFT. "An important step in supporting farmers and preserving the farming way of life in America is to protect the land itself. The financial commitment from TCCA will help to do just that and so much more."
The COVID-19 pandemic is placing a spotlight on a complex U.S. food system that disconnects consumers and farmers and worsens the plight for many who raise crops and livestock. It also comes at a time when many farmers were already financially struggling, TCCA said.
An estimated 580 farmers filed for Chapter 12 bankruptcy protection in the 12-month period ending June 30, 2020, translating into an 8% increase from a year earlier. Additionally, U.S. farm debt has grown to more than $425 billion — the largest since the farm crisis in the 1980s, the cooperative noted.
Criteser explained that when the pandemic forced restaurants, hotels and schools to close, the rigid multi-stage food supply chain made it difficult for farmers who supply those foodservice sectors to pivot and get their products directly to people. In many parts of the country, farmers were forced to give away or even destroy the goods they produced.
The U.S. government is providing billions of dollars to farmers this year to help those financially hurt by the coronavirus, but more has to be done and more have to step up to fight for the future of farming, TCCA said.
"The unpredictability of the pandemic and the complexities of the supply chain are squeezing the economics for many producers and putting many multi-generational farms at risk," said Criteser. "This year's unique challenges have accelerated and intensified the hardships that many farmers across the country were already facing."
This fall, Tillamook said it is encouraging people everywhere to help support farmers from across the country in three easy ways:
- Buy Tillamook. Every Tillamook product purchased at grocery retail locations in September will support America's farmers, with 10% of all sales, up to $1.6 million, being donated to AFT.
- Get Informed. Everyone should educate themselves about farming and those who produce food today. All month long, Tillamook will share farmer profiles at AllForFarmers.com and at @Tillamook on social media. The unique stories and interviews will demonstrate that farmers are technologically and business savvy; the original environmentalists, committed to protecting the air, land and water; and diverse in age, gender, ethnicity and size of farm.
- Say thanks. Tillamook is inviting consumers to join in thanking farmers this harvest season by using the hashtag #AllForFarmers on social media. Tillamook will award free ice cream for a year to 10 randomly selected consumers who share their thanks for farmers using both the #AllForFarmers and #Sweepstakes hashtags Sept. 1 through Sept. 30.
Tillamook said it will announce its total donation to AFT on Oct. 12, National Farmers' Day. On the same day, AFT will open the grant application to farmer applicants. More details about the TCCA 'All For Farmers' initiative can be found at AllForFarmers.com.