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. §§ 6501-6524
Agricultural Act of 2014, P.L. 113-79
Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill), P.L.115-334
Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), 16 U.S.C. § 3831(a-b)
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(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. §§ 610.31-610.32
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
Agricultural Conservation Easement Program , 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

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, 2013)
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
Farmers Markets & Direct-to-Consumer Marketing

Agricultural Research Service (ARS)

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)

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
Publication: The Use of Markets to Increase Private Investment in Environmental Stewardship (2008)

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Sustainability Topics
Agriculture and Sustainability

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
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)

Environmental and Resource Economics Programs
Sustainable Agriculture

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

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

Office of the Chief Economist


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)
USAID Environment and Global Climate Change
Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
Good Agricultural Practices Conservation Resources

Additional Resources

Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN)
Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program (UC SAREP)
Sustainable Agriculture Education Center (SAGE Center)
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
United Nations Division for Sustainable Development
Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources (CSANR, WA St. U.)
Michigan Organic Farming Exchange
Food Alliance
Natural Resources and Environment Department (FAO)
European Commission: Environment and Agriculture
Rainforest Alliance
Rural Advancement Foundation International – USA
Northeast Organic Farming Association
American Farmland Trust
New England Small Farm Institute
Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
New York Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
Organic Trade Association
National Center for Home Food Preservation (U. GA)
U.S. Sustainability Alliance
Field to Market


Land Use Conflicts Between Wind and Solar Renewable Energy and Agricultural Uses (Hall, Morgan, Richardson; 2022)
Agricultural Conservation in the 2018 Farm Bill
(CRS, 2019)
Characterizing Diversity of Food Systems in View of Sustainability Transitions (Gaitan-Cremashi et. al., 2019)
Reform, Justice, and Sovereignty: A Food Systems Agenda for Environmental Communication (Gordon & Hunt, 2018)
Improving Agricultural Water Sustainability: Strategies for Effective Farm Water Management and Encouraging the Uptake of Drip Irrigation (Greenland, et. al., 2017)
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)
U.S. Agriculture, Sustainability, and Public Policy (2015)
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)
International Guidebook of Environmental Finance Tools; 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)
Competing Visions of U.S. Agriculture: Can We Have Our Cake and Eat It Too in Reforming Federal Farm Policy (2007)
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)
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)

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)