Sustainable Agriculture



While the term “sustainable agriculture” is not clearly defined, most definitions include four basic goals: adequate food and fiber production; sound environmental stewardship; economic viability; and development of strong rural communities. Sustainable agriculture may be understood as a process of striking a balance among these goals, viewing them as complementary rather than competing. Read the full overview

 Note: Recently added resources are posted at the top of the applicable sections.

Major Statutes

Purposes of Agricultural Research, Extension and Education, 7 U.S.C. § 3101

Definitions, 7 U.S.C. § 3103(18)

Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching, 7 U.S.C. §§ 3101-3363

Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, 7 U.S.C. §§ 5801-5832

Organic Food Production Act of 1990, 7 U.S.C. §§ 6501-6523

Agricultural Act of 2014, P.L. 113-79

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), 16 U.S.C. § 3831(a-b)

Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), 16 U.S.C. 3838d

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), 16 U.S.C. 3839aa

Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), P.L. 113-79 § 2301(a)

Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), P.L. 113-79 § 2401

Conservation of Private Grazing Land Program, 16 U.S.C. 3839bb(e)

Grassroots Source Water Protection Program, 16 U.S.C. 3839bb-2(b)

Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program, 16 U.S.C. 3839bb-5

Agriculture Conservation Experienced Service Program, 16 U.S.C. 3851

Small Watershed Rehabilitation Program, 16 U.S.C. 1012(h)(2)(e)


National Organic Program Regulations, 7 C.F.R. Part 205

National Resources Conservation Service, 7 C.F.R. Parts 600-699

Conservation of Private Grazing Lands, 7 C.F.R. Part 610.32

Wildlife Habitats Incentives Program, 7 C.F.R. Part 636

Agricultural Management Assistance Program, 7 C.F.R. Part 1465

Environmental Quality Incentives Program, 7 C.F.R. Part 1466

Conservation Farm Option, 7 C.F.R. Part 1468

Conservation Security Program (CSP), 7 C.F.R. Part 1469

Case Law

Case Law Index for Sustainable Agriculture

Administrative Law Decisions

Office of Administrative Law Judges

Center Published USDA Judicial Officer Decisions

Center Research Publications

State-Specific Direct Marketing Business Guides (National AgLaw Center & U. IL @Urbana)

General Legal Issues for Community Farmers Market Managers to Consider (Crocker)

Federal Regulation of Organic Food: A Research Guide for Legal Practitioners and Food Industry Professionals (Jillian)

The Farmers’ Legal Guide to Producer Marketing Associations (O’Brien, Hamilton, & Leudemann)

Biofuels: Policy and Business Organization Issues (O’Brien)

Farmers Markets: Rules, Regulations and Opportunities (Hamilton)

A Legal Guide to the National Organic Program (Pittman)

Biodiversity and Law: The Culture of Agriculture and the Nature of Nature Conservation (Harbison)

The Conservation Security Program and the Grassland Reserve Program Under the 2002 Farm Bill (Pittman)

Congressional Research Service Reports

Reports– published and made available by CRS beginning in 2017

Subjects- published by CRS and made available by NALC until 2018:

Animal Agriculture
Climate Change
Environmental Issues
Farm Bills/Economic Stimulus
Farm Labor
Food Safety
Food Security/Aid
Rural Development
Sustainable and Organic Farming

Agricultural Law Bibliography

Introduction   |   Keyword Search   |   Browse Categories

Legal publications on Sustainable Agriculture:

Food and Drug Law
Fruits and Vegetables – Perishable Agricultural Commodities
Hunger and Food Security Issues
Hunting, Recreation and Wildlife
Land Use Regulation
Pesticides, Herbicides, Insecticides, Fungicides, Fertilizers
Sustainable and Organic Farming
Water Rights; Agriculturally Related

Reference Resources

Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)

National Organic Program
Commodity Purchasing
Wholesale and Farmers Markets
Selling Food to USDA
Farmers Markets & Direct-to-Consumer Marketing
Local Food Directories: National Farmers Market Directory

Agricultural Research Service

National Research Program: Natural Resources and Sustainable Agricultural Systems

Sustainable Agriculture: 2017 Research Accomplishments (2017)

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)

Publication: Ecology and Management of Rodents in No-Till Agriculture in Washington, USA (2007)

Economic Research Service (ERS)

Key Topics: Animal Products
Key Topics: Crops
Key Topics: Farm Economy
Key Topics: Farm Practices & Management
Key Topics: Food & Nutrition Assistance
Key Topics: Food Choices & Health
Key Topics: Natural Resources & Environment
Conservation Programs
Briefing Room: Fertilizers and Pesticides
Briefing Room: Bioenergy
Briefing Room: Environmental Quality
Briefing Room: Food Security in the United States
Briefing Room: Irrigation and Water Use
Briefing Room: Organic Agriculture
Publication: The Use of Markets to Increase Private Investment in Environmental Stewardship (2008)

Environmental Protection Agency

Sustainability Topics

Farm Service Agency

Conservation Programs
Economic and Policy Analysis
Natural Resources Analysis

Food and Drug Administration

Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
Questions & Answers: Raw Milk
Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HAACP)

National Agricultural Library

Alternative Farming Systems Information Center
Publication: Sustainable Agriculture: Definitions and Terms
Food Safety Research Information Office
Sanitation and Quality Standards
Preventative Food Safety Systems
Organic Production
Water Quality
Agricultural Environmental Management

National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)

Agricultural Systems
Environmental and Resource Economics Programs

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Water Topics and Programs
Conservation Stewardship Program
Environmental Quality Incentives Program
Technical Resources

Office of the Chief Economist

Sustainable Development

Congressional Resources

Agricultural Conservation: USDA Needs to Better Ensure Protection of Highly Erodible Croplands and Wetlands (GAO, 2003)

Other Federal Resources

Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE)

Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas-National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA-NCAT)

Sustainable Agriculture (USAID)

Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition

 Good Agricultural Practices

Small Farms and Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Policy (2006)

Additional Resources

Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN)

Agriculture and Sustainability (EPA)

What is Sustainable Agriculture? (UC SAREP)

Sustainable Agriculture Education Center (SAGE Center)

Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA)

Sustainable Agriculture Posts (Ag & Food Law Blog)

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture

Winrock International, Henry A. Wallace Center for Agriculture and Environmental Policy

The Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture

University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program

 United Nations Division for Sustainable Development

Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources (CSANR, WA St. U.)

The Organic Farming Exchange

Food Alliance

SD Dimensions: Natural Resources Management and Environment Department (FAO)

European Commission: Agriculture and the Environment

Rainforest Alliance

Rural Advancement Foundation International – USA

Northeast Organic Farming Association

American Farmland Trust

New England Small Farm Institute

Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group

Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group

 New York Sustainable Agriculture Working Group

Organic Trade Association

National Center for Home Food Preservation (U. GA)

Fieldprint Calculator (

Sustainable Agriculture and Research Education (SARE)


Network, Building Soils for Better Crops, Third Edition (Magdoff & Van Es, 2009)

What is Sustainable Agriculture? (SARE)

Building Sustainable Farms, Ranches, and Communities (SARE, 2014)

Organic Transition (SARE, 2015)

The New Farmers’ Market, Second Edition (SARE, 2015)

Farmers’ Guide to Organic Contracts (FLAG, 2012)

Investing in the Transition to Sustainable Agriculture (DeLong et al., 2015)

Report: Agriculture in America Sustainability (U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, 2017)

Chapter 5: Sustainable Agriculture (United Nations Development Program, 2012)

Production Practices and Systems in Sustainable Agriculture (U. Ky, 2015)

Establishing Land Use Protections for Farmers’ Markets(Public Health Law & Policy, 2009)

From the Ground Up-Land Use Policies to Protect and Promote Farmers’ Markets

Establishing Land Use Protections for Community Gardens (Public Health Law & Policy, 2010)

Environmental and Socioeconomic Indicators for Measuring Outcomes of On-Farm Agricultural Production in the United States,Third Edition (Field to Market: The Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, 2016)

SARE 20/20: Celebrating Our First 20 Years, Envisioning the Next (SARE, 2009)

When Your Processor Requires More than Organic Certification: Additional Requirements in Organic Milk Contracts (FLAG, 2008)

Hushed Up: Confidentiality Clauses in Organic Milk Contracts (FLAG, 2008)

A Human Rights Framework for World Food and Nutrition Security (UN General Assembly, 2008)

Disaster Readiness and Recovery: Legal Considerations for Organic Farmers (FLAG, 2007)

Is Your Farm “EQIPed” for Conservation? A Farmers’ Guide to Understanding the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (FLAG, 2007)

Farmers’ Guide to Wind Energy: Legal Issues in Farming the Wind (FLAG, 2007)

Negotiating Wind Energy Property Agreements (FLAG, 2007)

Conserving Fuel on the Farm (ATTRA, 2007)

If Your Farm Is Organic, Must It Be GMO-Free? Organic Farmers, Genetically Modified Organisms, and the Law (FLAG, 2007)

Understanding Farmers’ Market Rules (FLAG, 2006)

The Relevance of Family Farms Today (FLAG, 2006)

Of Affected Acres and Alternative Markets: Which Way for Organic Farmers? (FLAG CLE seminar, 2006)

Future Issues in Agricultural Law and Rural Practice (FLAG CLE seminar, 2006)

Before You Sign on the Dotted Line…Questions for Farmers to Ask Before Entering Into a Direct Marketing Agreement (FLAG, 2005)

Sustainable Agriculture: An Introduction (Earles, ATTRA, 2005)

Building Better Rural Places: Federal Programs for Sustainable Agriculture, Forestry, Entrepreneurship, Conservation and Community Development (Krome et al., USDA et al., 2005)

Sustainable Agriculture Network, Manage Insects on Your Farm: A Guide to Ecological Strategies (Altieri, 2005)

External Costs of Agricultural Production in the United States (Tegtmeier & Duffy, 2004)

Farmers’ Guide to GMOs, Second Edition (FLAG, 2009)

Applying the Principles of Sustainable Farming (Sullivan, ATTRA, 2003)

Workshop Report, Trilateral Cooperation to Promote the Protection of Water Quality Through Sustainable Agriculture (IISD, 2003)

Building a Sustainable Business: A Guide to Developing a Business Plan for Farms and Rural Businesses (MN Institute for Sustainable Agriculture & Sustainable Agriculture Network, 2003)

Efficient Agricultural Buildings: An Overview (ATTRA, 2002)

Sustainable Agriculture Network, Building Soils for Better Crops (Magdoff & van Es, 2000)

Exploring Sustainability in Agriculture (SARE)

Recommended Publications & Readings (not freely available electronically)

Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in a Time of Climate Crisis, Vandana Shiva (South End Press 2008)

Self-Sufficient Agriculture: Labour and Knowledge in Small-Scale Farming, Robert Tripp (Earthscan, 2006)

The Earthscan Reader in Sustainable Agriculture, Jules N. Pretty (Earthscan, 2005)

Sustainable Management of Soil Organic Matter, Robert M. Rees (CABI Pub., 2001)

Food Sustainability: Diverging Implications, Chris Griffith (Emerald Group, 2004)

Agri-Culture: Reconnecting People, Land and Nature, Jules N. Pretty (Earthscan, 2002)

Farming in the Dark: A Discussion About the Future of Sustainable Agriculture, Rhonda Rae Janke (University Readers, 2008)

The Conversion to Sustainable Agriculture: Principles, Processes, and Practices, Stephen R. Gliessman (CRC, 2008)

Crisis & Opportunity: Sustainability in American Agriculture, John E. Ikerd (University of Nebraska Press, 2008)

Farming and the Fate of Wild Nature: Essays in Conservation-Based Agriculture, Dan Imhoff (Watershed Media, 2006)

From the Farm to the Table: What All Americans Need to Know About Agriculture, Gary H. Holthaus (University Press of Kentucky, 2006)

Together at the Table: Sustainability and Sustenance in the American Agrifood System, Patricia Allen (Pennsylvania State University Press, Published in Cooperation with the Rural Sociological Society, 2004)

Farming For Us All: Practical Agriculture & the Cultivation of Sustainability, Michael Bell (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2004)

The United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, Joseph Tornberg, 17 N.Y.L. Sch. J. Hum. Rts. 957 (2001)