Farm Policy

We work with family farmers and supporters like you who care about the structure of agriculture to reform farm policy. Our goal is to create farm policy that keeps families on the land, protects our soil and water for future generations and creates opportunity for a new generation of farmers.

Family farm agriculture plays a critical role in strengthening rural communities and shaping the character of rural life. Quite simply, who farms matters.

Research has found that communities surrounded by farms that are larger than can be operated by a family unit have a few wealthy elites, a majority of poor laborers, and virtually no middle class. The absence of a middle class has a serious negative effect on social and commercial service, public education, and local government.

We don’t have the option of returning to the family farm communities of a generation ago. But we can build strong 21st century rural communities based on their key strength. Family farming afforded people who work – the common person – the opportunity to shoulder the responsibilities of ownership and enjoy its benefits. That strengthened their stake in their community and nurtured their sense of responsibility.

Today, there are new opportunities in farming, ranching and related businesses. Small dairies are remaking themselves with speciaility cheeses and organic milk. In the Midwest, hundreds of small farms are flourishing by supplying the gourmet food supplier Niman Ranch with low-stress hogs raised on straw or pasture. On the Great Plains, family growers are cultivating specialty grains for expanding niche markets. 

We’re still fighting for family farms that raise commodities, as you can see in our advocacy for tighter limits on mega farm subsidies. But we are also working to create the new 21st century opportunities for rural Americans to own the fruits of their labor.

Farm Policy Notes


Promises vs. Performance: A Report Card Evaluating Federal Crop Insurance

This policy brief examines the performance of federal crop insurance programs against benchmarks promised by Congressional proponents of making federal crop insurance the nation’s flagship farm safety net program. The intent is to provide an evaluation, or report card.

Each performance category received a grade, as did the program overall. Categories include reliability, transparency, support for beginning farmers, encouraging crop diversity, saving taxpayer money, and overall performance.

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Crop Insurance Report Card

The way crop insurance works needs to change. Its effect on farmers, taxpayers, and the environment places the entire farm system in a struggle over who is the biggest and most moneyed. Farming should be an industry that encourages family and mid-sized farmers to produce food in ways that are environmentally friendly and ethical. 

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Rural Nerds: Top 10 Rural Research Looks at Hardship

Number 5 in our countdown of the Center for Rural Affairs Top 10 Rural Research Reports is not for the faint of heart. This week the Throwback Thursday report is Swept Away: Chronic Harship and Fresh Promise on the Rural Great Plains, from 2003.

It compares the prosperity then sweeping the country with the economic hardship experienced in rural areas. Jon Bailey and Kim Preston began the report this way: "A poor man’s field may produce abundant food, but injustice sweeps it away." - Proverbs 13:23 (New International Version)

Explanation of Crop Insurance Hidden Benefits

During the last farm bill debate we heard Congressional leaders say, farmers don’t get a check, they get a bill for their crop insurance.
While that statement may be true, it’s also true that crop insurance is heavily subsidized, providing unlimited premium subsidies to the nation’s largest and wealthiest farms on every acre, every year, regardless of prices, production or farm profitability.
 We created a mock “explanation of benefits” to demonstrate the largess.