Why Public Outreach?
First, because other farm groups focus on and are doing a good job of lobbying. We don’t lobby, but we know that our elected and agency officials pay a lot of attention to what voters think about these issues. Ultimately, voters choose. They choose our representatives and Governor. And our Governor chooses heads of agencies. In Washington, Democrats lead our state and may do so for a long time to come as in California. Most voters now live in urban areas far away from farms. These voters are particularly susceptible to the rising voices criticizing farmers. Voices from environmental groups, vegan groups, anti-corporate activists (to them our family farms are mega-corporations!) are all loudly appealing to those urban residents and voters. The urban-rural divide that separates us nationally is very much at work in Washington state. We need the understanding and support of the younger voter who is far from our farms but who holds the political power in this state if farming is to thrive. We need to understand and accept that environmental protection is extremely important to those living in our cities, and how their food is produced is also very important.
What Has Save Family Farming Accomplished?
The public outreach effort that evolved into Save Family Farming started in mid-2015 in Whatcom County. Major new dairy regulations, litigation against farmers, threats to shut down irrigation water, false accusations about farm pollution, and a biased and unfair news report from a Seattle TV station prompted farmers of various types to unify and start speaking out. When the What’s Upstream EPA funded campaign for more farm regulations emerged with its lies about farmers, farmers saw the need for a state-wide unified response.
Here are some accomplishments:
What’s Upstream discredited. Through numerous media accounts and social media outreach,145 members of Congress complained to EPA Director. The profile this attack on farmers received helps ensure it won’t happen again. We were recognized with President’s Awards in 2016 by the Washington Farm Bureau and the Washington State Dairy Federation for its work on this issue.
Regulatory and legislative impact. Our agency leaders and legislative leaders know us well and we have strong indication that our communication with them and public outreach has affected important decisions such as the terms of the dairy CAFO permit. Farmers relate their work with regulators is more positive due to our efforts.
Anti-farm activists false accusations countered. Lies and false accusations are aggressively countered. Some anti-farm groups have seen donations fall by exposing their false accusations.We also seen conservation and salmon enhancement groups coming forward to offer to work together on the important environment benefits farmers offer.
Increased public understanding and support. While hard to measure, we see from the response of government leaders and in social media interactions that we are making progress in building understanding among the public. There is much to be done but indications are that we are on the right track.
How Are We Managed and Funded?
Save Family Farming, a non-profit corporation, and its affiliates in Whatcom, Skagit and Yakima have three full time and one part time staff. Our president is a dairy farmer. We have an eleven member governing board made up of members of each of our three affiliates plus others. In addition, we have an Advisory Board of mostly farmers but also some farm supporters or representatives of other farm organizations. Various types of farming are represented. Funding comes from farmers, farm groups or associations, farm-related businesses and from concerned citizens.