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)

Our Work and Partnership

Since 2012, American University’s School of International Service faculty and students have partnered with executive directors, community leaders, and members of the Rural Coalition (RC)/Coalición Rural and the National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC) to conduct original and timely mixed-methods research analyzing the domestic and international impacts of US agricultural policy on small-scale, under-represented family farmers, ranchers, and farmworkers. These two coalitions are US members of La Via Campesina, the international agrarian movement.

During the 2013 and 2014 Rural Coalition Winter Forums, growers and community leaders debated and brainstormed strategies for reforming and transforming the Farm Bill. They also discussed what research would be needed in this ambitious endeavor. How could/do scholars help inform US agricultural policy? What needs to be known? Forum participants convened on these questions and compiled a working list of agricultural policy “participant-action-research-action-items,” that laid the groundwork for the research by graduate students and faculty at American University.

The aim of this project is to give a voice to marginalized producers while exploring the policies and regulations that affect their right to self-determination and choice of how to farm and what to grow. This website serves as an open platform to share this research with anyone interested in learning about these issues—whether a scholar, concerned citizen, grassroots activist or policy maker.

 The project is collaborative in that it employs community-based, participatory action research methods, wherein the community partner coalitions formulate research questions, co-design data collection, dialogue about findings and analysis, and utilize the deliverables. The goal of this methodology is mutual benefit: faculty and students learn valuable knowledge directly from community expertise , while community leaders and growers commission research that is directly of use to them.

Methodologically, such collaborative research is a work in progress, affording challenges, opportunities, and insights, in a long-term learning curve built on trust, work, self-reflexivity, and ongoing dialogue.

The Partners

The Practicum is housed under the School of International Service (SIS) at American University, but projects include students from the School of Public Affairs (SPA), the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), and the Kogod School of Business (KSB). SIS is committed to a broad and interdisciplinary approach to the study of international relations that values public service, environmental stewardship, human rights, and social justice.

The School of International Service strives to maintain diversity of background, experience, and expertise among its faculty and students, while fostering excellence in all fields of study and programs. Our curriculum emphasizes the operative word in the school's name: Service. This overriding belief guides the school in its goal to educate graduates of a special type: individuals whose personal and societal principles offer the promise of success in the rigorous conditions of an increasingly interconnected and complex world.

The National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC) is a non-profit 501(c)(3), North American organization that serves as a national link for grassroots organizations working on family farm issues. NFFC chooses its projects based on the potential to empower family farmers by reducing the corporate control of agriculture and promoting a more socially just farm and food policy. Established in 1986, the NFFC represents 24 grassroots organizations in 32 states. These groups work in respective regions on credit, trade, and farm and food policy issues. Through the NFFC, these organizations collaborate regionally on nation-wide campaigns making the most of every group's experience, resources, and impact. 

On January 22, 2017, family farmers lost a great advocate, and this project lost a great friend, with the passing of Kathy Ozer, Executive Director of the NFFC. You can read her obituary here. We miss her. 


NFFC recently merged with the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (NAMA), a fishermen-led organization building a broad movement toward healthy fisheries and fishing communities, so fishers and farmers are working together. NAMA works at the intersection of marine conservation and social, environmental, economic, and food justice, focusing on shifting seafood markets and policies while building community.

The two organizations use a shared leadership model with Niaz Dorry, the new President of both NFFC and NAMA.

The Rural Coalition/Coalición Rural is an alliance of farmers, farmworkers, indigenous, migrant, and working people from the United States, Mexico, Canada, and beyond working together toward a new society that values unity, hope, people, and land. The Rural Coalition/Coalición Rural has worked for more than 34 years linking over 70 grassroots member organizations. RC serves as a critical advocacy voice of African-American, American-Indian, Asian-American, Euro-American, Latino, and women farmers, ranchers, farmworkers, and rural communities in the U.S. Together they seek to build a more just and sustainable food system which brings fair returns to minority and other small farmers and rural communities, establishes just and fair working conditions for farmworkers, protects the environment, and brings safe and healthy food to all consumers.

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