Farmers, Fairness & the Farm Bill

where issues of producers, policy and equity converge

A Collaborative Research Project with Rural Coalition, National Family Farm Coalition & American University's School of International Service (Washington, DC)


Preserving Traditional Agriculture on the Native American Hopi Reservation (April 2014)

Seed sovereignty is the freedom of each and every farmer and food producer to save, exchange, adapt, breed, and sell seeds in the commons. This freedom is threatened by the extension of intellectual property rights (IPR) to living organisms. IPR over plant genetic material has drastically changed the way seeds are traded in the global market. Since the beginning of the twentieth century approximately 75% of plant diversity has been lost and a few high yielding, genetically uniform hybrid and genetically modified alternatives have replaced 90% of crop varieties. The rapid disappearance of agrobiodiversity is threatening the resilience of our food system as well as the livelihoods and cultures of those dependent on specific crop varieties. The Hopi American Indians have been cultivating corn for more than 800 years. Each year the corn seeds are saved for replanting, and allowed to adapt through human intervention to the arid, high-elevation climate in which the Hopi reside. These ancient landraces are at risk. Federal policy must be enacted to ensure the protection of seed varieties like those cultivated by the Hopi. There are currently no policies or programs protecting seed diversity in the Agricultural Act of 2014.

Click here to read full report (.pdf)

Click here to read the Food Security Policy memo (.pdf)

Resources for Agroecological Farmers in the United States (April 2014)

Photo Credit: Chin-Hua Fang

Photo Credit: Chin-Hua Fang

Agroecology is a method of farming that combines concepts in agriculture and ecology to produce resilient and sustainable farming systems.  It relies upon the sharing of knowledge between farmers, understanding of agroecological technologies, access to land, support of local markets, and government policy.  Agroecological farming is vital to protecting environments, communities, and cultures both locally and globally.  The Farm Bill funds for programs to assist farmers who practice sustainable agriculture.  The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA), and the Organic Transitions Program (ORG) are examples.  Programs like these improve conditions for farmers growing non-commodity crops in the US and abroad and they reduce human impacts on the earth.  This research aims to help beginning and transitioning agroecological farmers by creating a toolkit of resources. The toolkit also incorporates the story of a local farmer named Kip Kelley and his farm to provide context and insight.  

Click here to read the full toolkit (.pdf)

Communal Land Rights for Ranchers in the American Southwest (April 2014)

Photo Credit: Arielle Conti

Photo Credit: Arielle Conti

Increased regulation throughout the evolution of federal conservation policy has resulted in a perceived decrease in communal land rights for ranchers in the American Southwest.  Roots of the conflict between ranchers, conservationists, and federal government can be traced back to the Mexican-American War.  Most recently, the Agriculture Act of 2014 has decreased funding that supports socially disadvantaged farmers.  The Farm Bill stands to play a crucial role in the creation of equity between farmer welfare and conservation efforts.  Policy to address this conflict and formulate strategies for improved grazing practices is necessary.  Our research aims to, first, understand the conflict between ranchers of Northern New Mexico, conservation advocates, and government agencies, particularly the United States Forest Service.   Specifically, this research aims to explore the conflict’s causes and implications from a neutral perspective.  Second, this research will suggest opportunities to benefit key stakeholders including local communities, rangeland conservationists and the federal government.  

Click here to read the full report (.pdf)

Click here to read the Issue Brief (.pdf) 

Click here to read the OpEd (.pdf)

Willowdale Farm CSA (April 2013)

Willowdale Farm is located near a town named Butler, in Reisterstown, Maryland. The CSA is operational year round with seasonal constraints. It is a family owned and operated farm, and has been for three generations now, thanks to the hard work of Justin and Erin Harrison (and of course their parents Beth and Mike deserve some of the credit). Justin and Erin believe in trying their best to grow food for their local community and adhering to environmentally sensitive management practices.

Some of the programs that are out there already...the bureaucracy makes it impossible. You go through a whole lengthy process just to find out that you’re going to be pushed off until next year or the money’s not there and the programs themselves.
— Justin Harrison, Willowdale Farm

Accokeek Land Trust (April 2013)

The Accokeek land trust was founded in 1957 across the Potomac from George Washington's Mt. Vernon. In 2008, the area also became home to the Center for Agricultural and Environmental Stewardship (CAES), where they offer workshops, field days, presentations, community forums, and the March 2013 "Permaculture and Community" full-week training. ECO City Farms was assisted by the Rural Coalition and numerous other regional farmers and agricultural enthusiasts in conducting a training session that encouraged regional farmers in their efforts to develop sustainable food productions systems. The workshop utilized co-participation and co-facilitation methodologies to strengthen the skills needed to help cultivate a more sustainable farm and food system.

I see that as a way that I can be sustainable. I can go, I can teach people how to do this because if we don’t do it now, then when?
— Mapi Alvarez

FRESHFARM Market (April 2013)

On a brisk weekend in late March, a group of American University Graduate Students traveled into the urban food desert that is Washington D.C. to find a farmers' market. Washington D.C. was once famous for its lack of alternative food sources and learning centers; however, much has changed in the past few decades. Today, there are at least 82 school gardens and 30 farmers markets in the DC Metropolitan Area, according to DC Greens. The interviewees are a Dupont Circle FRESHFARM Market manager, Everona Dairy artisanal sheep farm worker, and a young farmer from New Morning Farm looking for his own piece of land, and they all have a message for Capitol Hill.

Don’t forget that there are thousands of smallscale farmers all over the country that are making real contributions to our food system and given the increasing likelihood of scarcity and unrealiability in our food system, they are our best chance at keeping our country fed.
— Jason James, Everona Dairy

Community partnered action research on and for U.S. agricultural policy