Why does Sustainable Agriculture Policy Matter?
December 14, 2010
In a word, leverage.
In a representative democracy, government policies and programs reflect society’s values and can accomplish change on a scale greater
than what any farmer, Michael Fields Agricultural Institute or any other individual or organization can accomplish. By steering government programs and policies, policy advocates can guide whether those resources leverage change in favor of or opposition to a sustainable agriculture.
What does good sustainable agriculture policy look like?
Sound sustainable agriculture policies are designed around defined needs of farmers, consumers and other stakeholders to support aspects of an environmentally sound, socially responsible, profitable agriculture.
They might be federal marketing programs like the Farmers Market Promotion Program or Conservation Stewardship Program. Or possibly policies such as measures to reform the direct farm payments in the federal commodity programs.
At the state level, sustainable agriculture policy might be a grants program that supports rotational grazing practices, or a Farm to School Program to help schools purchase local fruits and vegetables. Sustainable agriculture policy can even be local, such as farmland preservation initiatives or tax programs to support value-added businesses.
No single policy is designed to address all aspects of sustainable agriculture, and many serve farmers who would not characterize themselves as sustainable agriculture adherents as well as those who would. But taken as a whole, these and other policies help move the nation’s agriculture toward a more environmentally, economically and socially sustainable future.