The Farm Bill: A Citizen’s Guide

The farm bill is one of the most important pieces of legislation the American president signs. Negotiated every five to seven years, it has tremendous implications for food production, nutrition assistance, habitat conservation, international trade, and much more. Yet at nearly 1,000 pages, it is difficult to understand for policymakers, let alone citizens. In this primer, Dan Imhoff and Christina Badaracco translate all the “legalese” and political jargon into an accessible, graphics-rich 200 pages.

Readers will learn the basic elements of the bill, its origins and history, and perhaps most importantly, the battles that will determine the direction of food policy in the coming years. The authors trace how the legislation has evolved, from its first incarnation during the Great Depression, to today, when America has become the world’s leading agricultural powerhouse. They explain the three main components of the bill—farm subsidies, food stamps or SNAP, and conservation programs—as well as how crucial public policies are changing.

With a new farm bill just signed into law, we all need to understand the implications of food policy. What’s the impact of crop insurance? How does SNAP actually work? What would it take to create a healthier, more sustainable food system? These are questions that affect not only farmers, but everyone who eats. If you care about the answers, The Farm Bill is your guide.

Download the annotated Table of Contents

Praise for The Farm Bill: A Citizen’s Guide

“Dan Imhoff does an extraordinary job of explaining an impenetrable bill with such clarity that we can’t ignore the facts: that our current Farm Bill profoundly damages our organic farms, our environment, and our health. Just as extraordinary are the practical solutions Imhoff proposes for fixing the bill—humane policies that would support regenerative agriculture and our local farmers instead of tearing them down.”

–Alice Waters, Executive Chef, Founder, and Owner, Chez Panisse

“Cuts to the core of dozens of issues Congress wrestles with every four years, and gives citizens sage advice for making their voices heard in a debate too often dominated by Big Ag, Big Food, and Big Money.”

–Ken Cook, President and Cofounder, Environmental Working Group

“Required reading for anyone who cares about what we eat.”

–from the foreword by Marion Nestle

About the Authors

Dan Imhoff is an author, musician, and artisan food producer who has written for 25 years on topics related to ecological sustainability. He has written numerous articles, essays, and books including Food Fight: The Citizen’s Guide to the Next Food and Farm Bill; Paper or Plastic: Searching for Solutions to an Overpackaged World; Farming with the Wild: Enhancing Biodiversity on Farms and Ranches; and Building with Vision: Optimizing and Finding Alternatives to Wood. Dan lectures regularly on a variety of topics, and has appeared on hundreds of national and regional radio and television programs. Dan is the president and co-founder of Watershed Media as well as president and a co-founder of the Wild Farm Alliance, a national organization that works to promote agriculture systems that support and accommodate wild nature.

Christina Badaracco is a registered dietitian pursuing a career in nutrition to improve access to healthy and sustainable food and educate Americans about the connections between food and health. She is also particularly interested in researching the connections between diet, genetics, and health. Christina has done clinical nutrition research at the National Institutes of Health, menu planning and nutrition education at the Oakland Unified School District, and communications at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Water. She has also enjoyed contributing to children’s gardens, farmers’ markets, and a number of organic farms. She contributes monthly articles about nutrition to Soulful Insights and has consulted on two cookbooks for the TransAmerica Center for Health Studies. She also has experience testing and evaluating recipes and nutritional analyses for food delivery and meal kit companies. She loves to experiment with healthy recipes in the kitchen and share her creations to inspire others to cook.

Additional Resources

“Despite Small Wins, the New Farm Bill is a Failure of Imagination” by Dan Imhoff, Civil Eats, December 13, 2018

“Daniel Imhoff: Time for a Climate Resilient Farm Bill” Environmental Health News, November 13, 2018

“Daniel Imhoff Explains Why Everyone Should Care About the Farm Bill” by Maggie Tauranac, FoodPrint, March 28, 2019

Header photo by freestocks.org