It could be quite a summit. Al Gore enthusing to Neil Young about the Grateful Dead. George W. Bush defending his appropriation of a song by Billy Ray Cyrus for his presidential campaign. Pat Buchanan perhaps speaking about the beauty of Wagner. But what Willie Nelson would really like these music fans and political aspirants to deal with is the problems facing the nation's farmers.
That's why he has invited the three presidential hopefuls and Green Party candidate Ralph Nader to meet with farmers before the Farm Aid 2000 concert on September 17. Nelson has also extended his invitation to the 100 senators and representatives who sit on Congress' numerous agricultural committees.
"It is so bad in farm country that a farmer's return on a bushel of corn won't even buy a gallon of gasoline," Nelson said in a statement. "This is why we need members of Congress and the future president to hear from family farmers about how we can work together to ensure that our food continues to be produced in America by our family farmers."
There haven't been any RSVPs yet, but even if no one attends the summit, Nelson will be raising money for America's embattled farmers the old-fashioned way at Bristow, Va.'s Nissan Pavilion. The Farm Aid 2000 benefit concert will feature performances by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, John Mellencamp, Barenaked Ladies, Arlo Guthrie, Travis Tritt, and even polka star Jimmy Sturr.
Since Nelson, Young, and Mellencamp played the first Farm Aid in 1985, the annual event has raised more than $15 million. The money is distributed to farm organizations, churches, and service agencies.
In his role as president of Farm Aid, Nelson has also sent a letter to Keith Jones, the program manager of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program. Nelson urged the USDA to support organic production. "It is environmentally sound, providing cleaner water, cleaner air, significant pesticide reduction, and the potential for tremendous health and social benefits," he explained.
"The USDA should recognize these benefits and begin immediately to institutionalize this recognition by providing organic producers with their fair share of services and support from every agency and office within the Agriculture Department."
Of course, Nelson hasn't been neglecting his day job of making music. His new album, Milk Cow Blues, due out on September 19, sees the country star mixing it up with blues artists such as B.B. King, Susan Tedeschi, Jonny Lang, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
"I always wanted to do a blues album," Nelson told Rolling Stone. "But I knew how important it was to do it right and to have the right musicians in there and to have really good authentic blues players."
Nelson also warned Rolling Stone's Richard Skanse there was a reggae album on the way. "I cut it a few years ago, but Island changed executives and it kind of got put on the back shelf," he said. "But now Don Was and I are going back to Jamaica in November to finish it and put Marley's son and some of the Wailers on it, and do it up right."