Important Update:

Please note that the Grassroots Guide has not yet been updated to reflect changes made by the 2018 Farm Bill, which was passed and signed into law in December 2018. We are in the process of updating the Guide and expect to publish an updated version in the spring of 2019. In the meantime, please use this guide for basic information about programs and important resources and links for more information, but check with USDA for any relevant program changes made by the 2018 Farm Bill. Also, check out our blog series covering highlights from the new farm bill. 

For too long, the federal farm bill and other food and agricultural policies have not worked in favor of small and mid-sized family farms, new farming opportunities for the next generation and for farmers of color, advanced land stewardship, rural economic development, sustainable and organic farming research, or local food systems and healthy food access. In short, it has not on the whole or in a major way supported a more sustainable food and farming system.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has designed and championed many programs over the years to help create a more level playing field for sustainable farm and food systems within the federal policy landscape. Our wins have variously come through the periodic farm bill reauthorization as well as through other authorizing bills, annual agricultural appropriations bills, and through administrative reform efforts with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other federal agencies.

In the past, after passage of new farm bills, we have published grassroots and farmer guides to the new or evolving sustainable food and farming programs reflecting the advances we have helped create. In this, our newest iteration of that grassroots guide tradition, we are including but not limiting ourselves only to programs from the farm bill in order to make it a more comprehensive resource for users.

We have much to celebrate compared to the years of our coalition’s humble beginnings over 25 years ago, and also a long way yet to go. NSAC and our member organizations from around the country remain dedicated to shifting more taxpayer support of food and agriculture toward the public good. We continue to fight for policies that target support to family farmers, encourage a transition to sustainable and organic farming systems, expand conservation systems across the landscape, help new farmers get started, provide support for historically underserved farmers and communities, and promote healthy food access and local food production.

Grassroots mobilization and citizen action is critical to enacting public policies that will foster a future where family farms, rural and urban communities, and natural resources and the environment are healthy and resilient. The 2014 Farm Bill demonstrates that our struggle requires a broad coalition and a long-term commitment, and no single policy or bill can possibly solve all of our food and farm policy problems. Nonetheless, by winning some major policy reforms as well over $1 billion in new federal resources for new farmers, new healthy marketing opportunities, organic farmers, local conservation partnerships, and innovative farm and rural entrepreneurs, we have once again made substantial strides in the right direction.

Securing new policies and programs in various key pieces of legislation is only the first step of the process, however, in building a more sustainable food and farming system. Rulemaking and implementation of the programs, and annual funding bills, are no less important. So too is making sure that information about these programs get to the farmers, researchers, entrepreneurs, and community-based organizations that can benefit from them.

This Guide is thus intended as a resource to help farmers, conservationists, entrepreneurs, researchers, and rural and urban community groups to take advantage of federal programs that can help move the ball forward toward a more sustainable future.

We hope you find it useful!