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Published: Friday, 6/20/2003

Willie, Farm Aid entertainers plan Ohio fund-raiser

Country crooner Willie Nelson and his Farm Aid concert are on the road again and headed for the Columbus area Sept. 7.

Ohio's capital has been selected as the site for the 16th concert to benefit family farms, organizers announced yesterday. Performers will include Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young, and Dave Matthews.

Although Farm Aid sprung up in the 1980s as a response to farm foreclosures and a depressed agricultural economy, farmers and farming groups in Ohio said they welcome the event.

Plus, “We try to take this concert to key farm states and this is the first time we've been in Ohio,” the spokesman added.

“Anytime you can have an event that holds up the importance of family farmers to the public and draws attention to contributions that farmers make, we see it as a positive,” said Joe Cornely, spokesman for the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation in Columbus. He was quick to add that the bureau doesn't necessarily agree with the anti-big farm views of many Farm Aid supporters.

Paul Wyse, who grows grain on 145 acres near Wauseon, said the concert could give the occupation a badly needed boost among younger people.

“I'm 68 years old and farming,” he said. “But it's not taking hold with the young guys.

“Some young guys who would want to farm but can't have got to have help (with financing costs). Young guys with dads who can help aren't interested. They can make more money doing something else.”

Farm Aid, which was founded in 1985 by Mr. Nelson, Mr. Mellencamp, and Mr. Young, has raised $24 million to support family farms. Last year's concert, held at the Post-Gazette pavilion near Pittsburgh, was sold-out. Proceeds helped finance $334,000 in 2002 grants.

Farm Aid organizers held their first concert in 1985 in Champaign, Ill.

Tickets for the 2003 performance are priced at $36 to $78.

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