Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp On Capitol Hill

Here is an article about John’s appearance before a Senate agriculture subcommittee in 1987 that was first posted HERE, that page includes a picture from the day.

Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp on Capitol Hill

Austin American Statesman
June 19, 1987
by Seth Kantor

An obscure Senate Agriculture subcommittee that normally doesn’t get a nickel’s worth of public attention had turnaway crowds Thursday when singers Willie Nelson and John Cougar Mellencamp testified on behalf of the nation’s struggling family farmers.

Nelson said: “In my state of Texas, 14,000 full-time farmers went out of business in the past year.

“I’ve been singing and entertaining in 400 cities in the past two years, and I can see that America’s farm crisis has worsened during that time. Rural people come up to me all the time with stories, and there’s none of them happy.”

Nelson is founder and chairman of Farm Aid, Inc. — a non-profit organization that has raised more than $8 million through two benefit concerts. Proceeds form the 1985 concert in Illinois and the 1986 concert at Manor Downs have been used in 39 states for operating farm crisis agencies to help families who have lost or are losing their possessions.

The third Farm Aid concert will be September 19 in Lincoln, Nebraska, Nelson announced Wednesday.

Farm Aid board member Mellencamp, an Indiana native who said he is living this summer in South Carolina, described the situation, especially among black farmers there, as “shocking.”

“Statistics show that 1.4 percent of America’s farmers are black and they are losing their land at the rate of 9,600 acres a week,” he said.

“If the current trends continue,” he said, there will be virtually no black farmers left in America by 1994. The situation “is this nation’s embarrassment.”

When a member of the subcommittee on agriculture production and stabilization of prices asked Nelson what he would do to ease the money crisis for many U.S. farmers, the singer who grew up in the Central Texas farm community of Abbott seemed impatient with the senators.

“I don’t know where the money is to come from,” he said. “That’s up to you. You guys tell us.”

Later, at a news conference held by the two songwriters and singers, Mellencamp said: “The people of the country should be told that their congressmen and senators aren’t doing what they should be doing.

“It’s amazing something like this can be allowed to go on, and there’s so much apathy about it in this country.”
Nelson and Mellencamp afterward were guests at a luncheon with about two dozen House and Senate members in the private dining room of House Speaker Jim Wright of Fort Worth.

The luncheon’s co-host was Rep. Marvin Leath of Waco, the nearest big city to Abbott, where Nelson once belonged to the Future Farmers of America.

Leath is a politician who strums a guitar and sings Western songs on the side. Nelson is a musician who received praise Thursday for his political skills on behalf of U. S. Farmers.

“I am a gentleman farmers these days,” said Nelson, who raises horses and cattle in Texas and Tennessee. “If I had to make a living at farming, I’d go broke for sure.

“One time I bought a farm to raise hogs that were valued at 25 cents a pound at the time. When I sold the place, the hogs were worth 17 cents a pound.”