Sitting across the table from a banker or a loan officer is often intimidating and scary, especially when the farm is on the line. Who can farmers depend on to sit on their side of the table and provide guidance, or at least act as a witness, a note-taker, a second set of eyes and ears? Since the farm crisis of the 1980s, advocates have helped farmers navigate the maze of regulations that govern agriculture and access to farm credit. Many of the early advocates were experienced farmers themselves and knew first-hand the legal and financial challenges facing small farmers. We are in great need of advocates both to provide guidance in making farms more credit-worthy and sustainable, but also to act as witnesses in uncovering poor service, predatory lending, and discrimination.
What Farm Advocates Do
Farm advocates 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.
When should a farmer see an advocate?
- When in need of financial information
- When receiving an adverse decision from a state or federal agency
- When dealing with a loss on the farm, i.e., fire, disease, or natural disaster
- When going into mediation
- When negotiating with lenders
- When liquidating assets of the farm operation
- When a major drop in equity occurs
- When entering into or dissolving a partnership
- When beginning farming
Our Farm Advocacy Services
- Financial Planning: Cash flow projections, financial evaluation, discuss options, debt restructuring, provide information on debt resolution, assist/prepare loan applications, identify financial goals
- Lender Negotiations: Mediation planning/sessions, Farm Service Agency, farm credit services, banks, other creditors
- Farm Programs: Planning, application preparation, National Appeals Division assistance
- Legal Services: Referrals, assistance in case preparation
- Social Services: Applications, referrals
Training for Farmer Advocates
At RAFI, we aim to provide resources and educational materials both to support long-time farm advocates and empower new farm advocates. Check out our Farm Advocate Resources here.
We are currently developing training modules to support the professional development of farm advocates. We will make the educational materials we produce available here on our website. In the meantime, please have a look at our current resources and information for farmers and farm advocates.
Lead Farm Advocate
Benny is a national leader in advocating for farm families and saving farms that would otherwise be lost to foreclosure. Benny provides farmers with a broad array of advocacy services including financial counseling, legal referrals, and technical assistance. >> Click here to view a video about Benny Bunting and to read his full bio
Farm Community Organizer
Kavita manages RAFI’s Farmer Leadership Network, an initiative that helps farmers effectively serve on committees for agricultural decision-making groups. She also assists the Farm Sustainability Program staff with rural cooperative development in North and South Carolina.
Program Director, Contract Agriculture Reform
Sally manages RAFI’s program for contract agriculture reform, and also works directly with contract poultry and livestock producers to answer questions and connect them directly with resources available.