Strength through Unity

Mark Keating's picture

This week I represented OFRF at the summer meeting of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition alongside beautiful beaches on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan.  The meeting also marked NSAC’s twenty-fifth anniversary and the changes our movement has experienced over that time point very favorably towards our future.

In certain regards, the times seem not to have changed at all.  The organization that grew into NSAC was founded during a crisis for America’s family farmers, when government incentives to plant fence row to fence row led to skyrocketing land prices and relegated resource conservation to an afterthought.  These conditions are all too representative of American agriculture today.

Back in 1988, twelve Midwestern and Great Plains farming organizations came together to affect changes in federal agricultural policy which would preserve the Jeffersonian vision of small farmers as the foundation of a just and equitable society.  Thanks to subsequent visionaries including John Muir, Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson, they had also grown to appreciate the necessity of nurturing the precious resources which support all life on Earth.


Lo and behold, there was strength in unity and the 1990 Farm Bill included landmark achievements including the Organic Foods Production Act, the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program and the Wetlands Reserve Program. Building on those successes, NSAC has become Washington, DC’s most coherent and effective voice for family farmers and environmental stewardship by influencing every subsequent Farm Bill, painstakingly working the annual appropriations process and holding USDA accountable for delivering the quality of service which American farmers deserve.  

So what has changed in 2013?  NSAC has grown far beyond its farmer-based roots to encompass a greater unity which includes consumer allies who understand and will pay the true cost of food.  New voices including advocates for urban agriculture, direct marketing, minority and limited resource farmers and rigorous research on alternative agricultural systems including organic have brought new energy, creativity and momentum to NSAC.  Not that our farmers show any signs of letting up!

Despite continued tough times for American farmers, everyday more people are coming to the realization that economically and environmentally sound agricultural and nutrition policies are essential for our collective well-being.  As a proud member, OFRF congratulates NSAC for its twenty-five years of unstinting commitment and we’re doubling down on our commitment to further progress.

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