Grassroots Guide to the 2008 Farm Bill



IMPORTANT NOTE: The 2014 Farm Bill was signed into law in February of this year.  NSAC is at work on an updated version of our Grassroots Guide to the Farm Bill – it will be ready in summer 2014!  Until then, this information may be out of date and will not include any policy or funding changes from the new bill.  Be sure to double check any official federal websites for updated information in the meantime.


The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s (NSAC) Grassroots Guide to the 2008 Farm Bill walks you through each of thirty-four 2008 Farm Bill programs most important to sustainable agriculture, serving both as a “report from the trenches” of what survived the most recent farm bill fight, and as a guide to new policies and funding opportunities for farmers, ranchers, and grassroots organizations.

The farm bill programs are clustered into seven chapters, which appear in the left navigation of this page: Conservation and Environment; Farming Opportunities; Local and Regional Food Systems and Rural Development; Organic Production; Sustainable and Organic Research; Renewable Energy; and Competitive Markets and Commodity Program Reform.

Every program within each chapter follows the format: 1) the basic intent of the farm bill program, including eligibility requirements, 2) changes that the 2008 Farm Bill makes to the program if it was initially authorized in a previous bill, 3) legislative citations, 4) funding levels, 5) implementation information, and 6) the contact information for the respective administrative office within the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

This is not a digest of the entire farm bill—this Guide highlights the programs and policies that were NSAC’s farm bill priorities, most of which were included in our farm bill platform entitled No Time for Delay. We have also included a few additional new farm bill programs where we think they may be of particular interest to sustainable agriculture organizations and their farmer and constituent members. Please also note that a number of NSAC priority federal policies and programs are not included in this Guide because they were not amended by the 2008 Farm Bill or were not changed in any significant way.

As the third edition of the Grassroots Guide goes to press, the Obama Administration continues to issue rule-makings, program guidelines, and requests for proposals for the 2008 Farm Bill programs.  Therefore, this web-version of the Grassroots Guide will be continually updated to reflect any changes or additional information as new rules and guidelines are posted. We encourage readers and users of the Guide to consult the electronic version to keep up with the latest information.

In addition to using this guide, we encourage readers to check out NSAC’s additional specialized farm bill guides, including the Farmers’ Guide to the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Guide to USDA Funding for Local and Regional Food Systems. Each of these supplemental guides are more narrowly focused on specific issue areas.

The 2008 Farm Bill contains many good programs that can scale up existing alternatives to agri-industrialism and be the seeds for sowing new sustainable agriculture systems and practices.  While we celebrate our wins in the 2008 Farm Bill, NSAC will continue to fight for deeper structural change in our farming and food system.  NSAC is committed to helping farmers, ranchers, and their organizations take advantage of good farm bill programs, while at the same time building the capacity of grassroots organizations to equip farmers, conservationists, rural advocates, and food activists with the tools they need to participate in the policy-making process and help win greater farm and food policy reform in the coming years.