To Tom Vilsack, nominated Secretary of Agriculture:

We are young farmers in the Heartland, business owners who feed our communities. Many members of our coalition are new to agriculture – we aren’t part of the incumbent system of landownership and commodity farming – and we see a USDA that does not serve our needs.

Federal farm policy has shaped the landscape we exist in, and it’s not pretty: eroded soil and poisoned waterways; rapid consolidation of ownership and depopulation of rural communities; the systematic disenfranchisement of non-white farmers; and climate chaos that intensifies by the year.

We are building a different future for agriculture, and we need the participation of the USDA to create it on the scale that we need. We envision diverse farms and farmers empowered to steward living soil and thriving ecosystems, sequestering carbon and revitalizing their rural economies. We know that young people are eager to do this work, but current policy has prevented our access to it.

Secretary Vilsack, please join us in building this future. There are entrenched voices that will seek to maintain the status quo. You do not need to be among them. Our future is more resilient, vibrant and delicious than theirs.

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Dayna Burtness, Spring Grove, and members of the Driftless Young Farmers Coalition, southern Minnesota, northern Iowa and western Wisconsin