MEDIA RELEASE: RAFI Launches Series of Farmer Advocate Webinar Trainings
April 24: “When the Phone Rings: Guidelines for Initial Farmer to Advocate Conversations.”
PITTSBORO, NC (April 17, 2014)–The Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) has launched a series of free webinars to train interested community members in becoming farm advocates. The next training will be April 24 at 2 p.m.: “When the Phone Rings: Guidelines for Initial Farmer to Advocate Conversations.”
Farm advocates make up a small network of attorneys, community organizers and financial advisors throughout the United States who are connected to farmer crisis hotlines. They help connect farmers with social, legal, agricultural, and financial resources and services. Advocates may also assist farmers by referring them to helpful organizations, agencies, or other professionals or by directly providing assistance in their own areas of expertise.
The need for farm advocates arose after the 1980s farm crisis. Benny Bunting, RAFI’s lead farm advocate, has alone aided hundreds of farmers in his more than 20 years of work. Farm advocacy organizations like RAFI play a crucial role in giving farmers a place to turn when they hit a pit of financial distress, which can quickly lead to severe emotional and mental strain for themselves and their families.
Bunting stresses the need to enhance farm advocacy efforts to create a broader network of expert advisors and counselors. “We’re not able to prevent the crises,” Bunting says. “We don’t have enough capacity. We are good at putting out the fires. But it would be nice to be at the forefront and prevent some of those crises.”
Between 2010 and 2013 alone, Benny helped to preserve an estimated $50 million in assets for farm families. Averaging 100 cases a year and devoting 60 hours per each case that goes through an appeals process, Benny patiently works with farmers through all stages of their financial situation. In 90% of the cases he works on, he succeeds in helping farmers reach their goals.
Many American farmers are still struggling to recuperate after the 2008 recession, making farm advocates a crucial resource. In the most extreme situations, farmers call the hotline when they are contemplating suicide.
“We need that new generation of farm advocates,” says Bunting. “There aren’t many of us left. If I was a farmer in trouble, I would know just four people who I would call and trust to know this stuff.”
The next farm advocacy webinar is April 24 at 2 p.m., titled: “When the Phone Rings: Guidelines for Initial Farmer to Advocate Conversations.” The first webinar, “Farm Advocacy 101,” is available on RAFI’s website. Visit http://rafiusa.org/programs/
Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA (RAFI) is a non-profit organization that traces its heritage to the National Sharecroppers’ Fund, which was founded in the 1930s by a bi-racial group of tenant farmers organizing for fair treatment. RAFI cultivates markets, policies and communities that support thriving, socially just and environmentally sound family farms.