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.

File attachments: 

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. 

File attachments: 

The Let’s Talk Tour comes to Johnson Farms

In early September, we launched the Let’s Talk Tour - a series of conversations across eastern South Dakota that we organized - to hear from rural and small town folks about climate, soil and water conservation, and issues related to the region’s energy future. And we talked, but perhaps more importantly, we listened.

Time to Talk Farm Bill

If you live in farm country, the Farm Bill shapes your landscape. Whether through crop insurance, FSA loans, conservation programs, training opportunities, or any of the other dozens of policies included in this giant piece of legislation, chances are you interact with Farm Bill policy on a regular basis. Because the Farm Bill shapes the lives of rural Americans, the Center is committed to ensuring that rural Americans shape the Farm Bill.