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

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. §§ 6501-6524
Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (a/k/a 2018 U.S. Farm Bill), Pub. L, No. 115-334, 132 Stat. 4490 (2018) (codified at scattered sections of titles 7 & 16 of the U.S.C.)
Agricultural Act of 2014 (a/k/a 2014 U.S. Farm Bill), Pub. L. No. 113-179, tit. II, 128 Stat. 649, 713-722 §§ 2001-2713 (2014) (codified at scattered sections of titles 7, 16, & 43 of the U.S.C.) (Conservation Title)
Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), 16 U.S.C. § 3831
Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), 16 U.S.C. 3839aa
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), 16 U.S.C. 3839aa
Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), 16 U.S.C. § 3865
Conservation of Private Grazing Land Program, 16 U.S.C. 3839bb
Agriculture Conservation Experienced Service Program, 16 U.S.C. 3851
Small Watershed Rehabilitation Program, 16 U.S.C. 1012
Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), 16 U.S.C. §§ 3871-3871f


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. §§ 610.31-610.32
Wildlife Habitats Incentives Program, 7 C.F.R. Part 636
Conservation Reserve Program, 7 C.F.R. Part 1410
Grasslands Reserve Program, 7 C.F.R. Part 1415
Regional Conservation Partnership Program, 7 C.F.R. Part 1464
Agricultural Management Assistance Program, 7 C.F.R. Part 1465
Environmental Quality Incentives Program, 7 C.F.R. Part 1466
Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, 7 C.F.R. Part 1468
Conservation Security Program ,7 C.F.R. Part 1469
Conservation Stewardship Program, 7 C.F.R. Part 1470

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

Voluntary Approaches to Agricultural Water Pollution Reduction (Reid, 2022)
Farm Bill Conservation Programs: Swampbuster and Sodbuster (Snowden & Rollins, 2020)
Agricultural Nutrients and Water Quality: Recent Litigation in the United States (Essman & Hivick, 2020)
Mandatory Legal Approaches to Agricultural Nutrient Management (Essman & Brown, last updated 2020)
State Legal Approaches to Reducing Water Quality Impacts from the Use of Agricultural Nutrients on Farmland (Hall & Essman, 2019)
Issue Brief: The Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule and Current Events (Barker & E. Rumley, 2018)
State-Specific Direct Marketing Business Guides (National AgLaw Center & U. IL @Urbana, 2016)
A Legal Guide to the National Organic Program (Pittman, et al., 2011)
Water Quality Credit Trading: A Primer of Background Material (Jackson, 2010)
General Legal Issues for Community Farmers Market Managers to Consider (Crocker, 2007)
Federal Regulation of Organic Food: A Research Guide for Legal Practitioners and Food Industry Professionals (Jillian, 2006)
The Farmers’ Legal Guide to Producer Marketing Associations (O’Brien, Hamilton, & Leudemann, 2006)
Biofuels: Policy and Business Organization Issues (O’Brien, 2006)
Biodiversity and Law: The Culture of Agriculture and the Nature of Nature Conservation (Harbison, 2004)
The Conservation Security Program and the Grassland Reserve Program Under the 2002 Farm Bill (Pittman, 2003)
Farmers Markets: Rules, Regulations and Opportunities (Hamilton, 2002)

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
National Farmers Market Directory
Selling Food to USDA
Regional Food System Partnerships
Local Agriculture Market Program

Agricultural Research Service (ARS)

National Research Program: Natural Resources and Sustainable Agricultural Systems
Sustainable Agriculture: 2017 Research Accomplishments (2017)
Increasing the Sustainability of Agricultural Systems (2019)

Economic Research Service (ERS)

Animal Products
Farm Economy
Farm Practices & Management
Food & Nutrition Assistance
Food Choices & Health
Natural Resources & Environment
Conservation Programs
Fertilizers and Pesticides
Environmental Quality
Food Security in the United States
Irrigation and Water Use
Organic Agriculture
Publications: Natural Resources & Environment

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Learn About Sustainability
Agriculture and Sustainability
Sustainable Water Infrastructure
Sustainable Management of Food

Farm Service Agency (FSA)

Conservation Programs
Economic and Policy Analysis
Natural Resources Analysis

Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

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

National Agricultural Library (NAL)

Alternative Farming Systems Information Center
Water Quality
Sustainable Agriculture
Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Series

National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)

Environmental and Resource Economics Programs
Sustainable Agriculture
AFRI Sustainable Agricultural Systems

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Conservation Basics
Conservation Stewardship Program
Environmental Quality Incentives Program
Conservation Innovation Grants
Regional Conservation Partnership Program
Conservation Stewardship Program
Wetland Reserve Easements
Landscape Conservation Initiatives
Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative
Agricultural Conservation Easement Program
Agricultural Land Easements
Conservation Reserve Program
Watershed Programs
Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership

Office of the Chief Economist


Congressional Resources

House Agriculture Committee
Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry

Other Federal Resources

Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE)
Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas-National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA-NCAT)
USAID Environment and Global Climate Change Conservation Resources

Additional Resources

Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program (UC SAREP)
Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA)
Sustainable Agriculture Posts (Ag & Food Law Update)
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
Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources (CSANR, WA St. U.)
European Commission: Environment and Agriculture
Rural Advancement Foundation International – USA
American Farmland Trust
Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
U.S. Sustainability Alliance
Field to Market
Office of Climate Change, Biodiversity and Environment (FAO)
Food Security and Nutrition and Sustainable Agriculture (United Nations)


Building Soils for Better Crops (Magdoff & Vanes, 2021)
What is Sustainable Agriculture? (SARE, 2021)
Building Sustainable Farms, Ranches and Communities (SARE, 2020)
Agricultural Conservation in the 2018 Farm Bill (CRS, 2019)
Characterizing Diversity of Food Systems in View of Sustainability Transitions (Gaitan-Cremashi et. al., 2019)
CRP-TIP Fact Sheet (FLAG, 2016)
U.S. Agriculture, Sustainability, and Public Policy (The Sustainability Alliance, 2015)
Organic Transition (SARE, 2015)
Investing in the Transition to Sustainable Agriculture (DeLong et al., 2015)
Production Practices and Systems in Sustainable Agriculture (U. Ky, 2015)
Farmers’ Guide to Organic Contracts (FLAG, 2012)
Is Your Farm “EQIPed” for Conservation? A Farmers’ Guide to Understanding the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (FLAG, 2007)
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)

Recommended Publications & Readings (not freely available electronically)

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