The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) officially commenced on January 1, 2009 after the respective governing bodies of the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture and the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition voted to merge the two organizations. The newly created NSAC will give voice to the broad and vital grassroots efforts across the country to bring real change in policies for a more sustainable agriculture. The timing is right to bring fresh ideas, energy, and enthusiasm to a changed atmosphere in Washington.
The Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (SAC) came into existence in the aftermath of the mid-1980s farm crisis as a result of rural grassroots organizing with farmers that quickly coalesced around finding sustainable solutions. The farmer-based grassroots support and leadership made SAC uniquely positioned to command attention for its policy positions that link farming livelihoods, rural communities, and the environment.
In 2003, the members of the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition voted to make SAC a national coalition so that grassroots organizations from outside the Midwest could join and be represented by SAC in Washington, D.C. At the time of the merger, SAC had 33 member groups that spread throughout the country. Over its 20-year history, SAC successfully developed many important federal programs, including the:
- Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program
- Conservation Stewardship Program
- Value-Added Producer Grants Program
- National Organic Certification Cost Share
- Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program
- Wetlands Reserve Program
- Farmers’ Market Promotion Program
The National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture (NCSA) launched in 1994 to provide a national forum in which to develop and promote federal sustainable agriculture policy. The goal was to create federal policy to shift the food system toward sound environmental stewardship, to foster decent livelihoods for farmers and workers, and to be socially just and humane. NCSA functioned as a working alliance of partner organizations to bring together many interests and voices, from large national groups like the Sierra Club and National Farmers Union, to tiny grassroots associations like farmers’ markets and food-purchasing co-ops. Combining these with the strength in numbers added by consumers, environmentalists, wildlife advocates, educational institutions, religious institutions, community food security groups, civil rights activists, and rural community groups, NCSA built a powerful grassroots voice with the breadth and unity essential to bring about change in federal policy. At the time of the merger, NCSA had more than 100 official partners.
In 1988, sustainable agriculture leaders pioneered the Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SAWG) concept – a regional network of organizations working on sustainable agriculture issues. The Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SAWG) served as both a regional network and as a subset of the broader network that functioned as a formal coalition for direct advocacy purposes, the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
Other regional SAWGs were created in the early 1990s:
- Southern: 1991
- Northeast: 1992
- Western: 1993
- California: 1994
As those came along, the original SAWG became known as Midwest SAWG, or simply MSAWG.
NSAC relates to the SAWGs through an Affiliated Regional Program (ARP) designation. MSAWG, WSAWG, SSAWG, and NESAWG are now NSAC Affiliated Regional Programs.