Over the last 20 years, many of the policies for which the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has helped to develop and advocate have become well-established federal programs that are popular with farmers, researchers, and community-based organizations. While NSAC’s work focuses on policy option development and ongoing federal legislative and administrative advocacy, the ultimate test of NSAC’s success is not how many programs it helps to create, but how these programs make a difference on the ground.
Working Lands Conservation
NSAC was the leading national organization involved in establishing the Conservation Security Program (CSP) in 2002. In the 2008 Farm Bill, NSAC successfully won increased funding and important improvements to the program, which was renamed the Conservation Stewardship Program.
Greg & Kathy Koether and their three children own a sustainable grass-based livestock operation in northeast Iowa, and in 2007 they qualified for the Conservation Security Program (CSP), which rewards them for using methods that benefit the environment.
Years ago, the Koethers’ fields used to be planted to corn and soybeans, which caused erosion and formed gullies. Now their methods of rotational grazing and pasture management improve water quality in their entire watershed. In this photo, Greg is leading a farm tour to teach other farmers about environmentally friendly farming methods and about CSP.
The Koethers are active members of the Land Stewardship Project, a NSAC member organization, and Greg and his daughter Kayla make sure their voices are heard in the halls of government. Kayla, who graduated from high school in 2008, has been visiting Washington, D.C. since she was 12 to participate in NSAC’s farmer fly-ins with her dad. When Kayla speaks about beginning farmer programs, people listen.
Beginning Farmers and Ranchers
In 2007, with the training and assistance of NSAC member groups, the Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA), and California FarmLink, Maria Luz and her husband Florentino Collazo purchased their own farm with financing made possible through an Individual Development Account and a beginning farmer purchase loan through the USDA Farm Service Agency.
Today they market their produce through ALBA Organics and at the farmers’ markets and farm stand at the Carmel Mission each Sunday morning.
Through NSAC’s support to ALBA for strategic outreach on the 2008 Farm Bill, Maria, Florentino, and other ALBA farmers were able to have their voices heard and participate in the federal farm policy-making process. During this experience, Maria and Florentino were able to share their inspiring story of purchasing a farm with the help of an Individual Development Account directly to Congressman Joe Baca who sits on the House Agriculture Committee.
As a result of the efforts of ALBA, its members like Maria and Florentino, and other NSAC organizations, we successfully won authorization of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Individual Development Account Program as a national pilot program in the 2008 Farm Bill.
On-Farm Research and Value-Added Agriculture
NSAC helped to establish the popular Sustainable Agriculture and Research Education (SARE) program 20 years ago as well as the Value-Added Producer Grant Program in the 2002 Farm Bill. In this photo, Casey McKissick of Crooked Creek Farm in North Carolina explains his pastured-poultry rotational system to interested farmers at a field day. Crooked Creek Farm received a producer grant from Southern SARE to evaluate use of pastured-poultry as a nutrient management tool. The field day is part of a Value Added Producer Grant-funded effort to organize an association of rabbit and poultry producers in western North Carolina.