How We All Work Together

Fourth Draft 5/21/03 See clarifying notes in green at bottom of document

What Unites Us:

Over the past decade, the five regional Sustainable Agriculture Working Groups (SAWGs), the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture have been working together for a food and agricultural system that is:

  • Economically profitable
  • Environmentally sound
  • Based on family farms
  • Socially just

Each of these groups has its unique history, organizational path and scope of work. Yet, they all come together to forward their common goals.

A brief history:

Midwest leaders pioneered the SAWG concept — a network of organizations working on sustainable agriculture issues – in 1988, creating both the Midwest Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (MSAWG) and its Washington, D.C. advocacy arm, the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. The other regional SAWGs were created in the early 1990s (Southern: 1991, Northeast: 1992, Western: 1993, and California: 1994).

In 1992, with strong leadership from MSAWG, groups and advocates from around the country began discussing the need for a coordinated national discussion among a variety of organizations and interests about federal agricultural policy problems and alternatives. The result was the two-year National Dialogue for Sustainable Agriculture. This intensive exercise in participatory, grassroots consensus building led, in 1994, to the creation of the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture.

What is the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture?

The National Campaign is a non-profit organization whose overarching goals are to:

  • Foster democracy in action, by supporting and expanding a strong network of grassroots, state, regional and national organizations working on unified, coordinated strategies for federal sustainable agriculture policy; and
  • Help grassroots, state, regional and national organizations win for themselves needed changes to federal food and farm policy, rulemaking and implementation.

The National Campaign works in alliance with hundreds of partner groups and coalitions whose constituencies include family farmers and ranchers, rural and urban communities, environmental and wildlife advocates, faith-based institutions, consumers, workers, indigenous peoples, and students.

The National Campaign has a new partner agreement. Whv?

Over the past year, Board and staff of the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture have been working in a variety of ways to evaluate and improve the organization. The new Partner Agreement defines much more clearly the criteria, rights and responsibilities of National Campaign Partner Organizations, and how the Campaign works with them. The National Campaign also has developed a new partner application process, clarified roles, added rights (including voting for the majority of National Campaign Board seats), and established a sliding-scale dues structure for Partner Organizations.

What is the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition?

The Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a network of groups that together take common positions and provide financial support for collective representation before Congress and federal administrative agencies. The SAC staff seeks extensive involvement from sustainable farmers and its member organizations, and in turn provides effective representation for its members.

SAC is expanding. Why? Since its beginnings, SAC has operated as a national organization and has been advising many in the sustainable agriculture community nationwide. Yet, in representations on Capitol Hill and in the administrative agencies, the SAC staff can only claim to represent Midwest-based organizations. Expanding SAC membership to officially represent groups in other geographic regions will increase SAC’s effectiveness. By the same token, organizations joining SAC will gain valuable D.C. representation and enhance their own political effectiveness.

The expanded SAC will continue to serve as an information resource to and work closely with the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture and each of the regional Sustainable Agriculture Working Groups.

What is the difference between SAC and the National Campaign?

SAC is a formal coalition of member organizations. SAC maintains a Washington, D.C. office and provides direct representation to it member organizations on a focused set of priority policies. For the past 15 years, SAC has been the primary presence and face in Washington, D.C. for sustainable agriculture policy advocacy, (

The National Campaign is an informal alliance of partner organizations, coalitions and networks that work together to identify consensus positions and strategies for national sustainable agriculture policy. The National Campaign facilitates broad constituency involvement in issue identification, prioritizing and consensus building, as well as education and mobilization of the grassroots for action. National Campaign policies and positions are informed by its diverse partners, primarily through committee processes, and endorsed by its Board of Directors. When the National Campaign takes a position in its own name, it speaks for itself, not for every partner organization, (>

Both the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture provide important functions and each would be far less effective without the other. On many National Campaign issues, the SAC office provides the broader National Campaign with materials and strategic insights needed for its effective grassroots advocacy efforts. For most SAC priority issues, the National Campaign ~ and the regional SAWGs, described next ~ provide an important mechanism for reaching a broad and growing national constituency geared for taking action.

The expanded SAC and the National Campaign will continue to work together closely. Organizations can be part of both SAC and the National Campaign. As described above, SAC and the National Campaign provide different services and opportunities that organizations find of value.

What are the regional Sustainable Agriculture Working Croups (SAWGs)? The five regional SAWGs are independent organizations that share a common acronym and many goals. They operate separately from each other, however, without common finances, funding or leadership. They are not chapters or arms of the National Campaign. And, they vary considerably in structure, composition and priority areas of work. For some, federal food and farm policy is a priority. Others focus more on state- and region-level sustainable agriculture and food systems development. They seek primarily to bring together various groups and constituencies within their regions to share information, build understanding and move forward on regional sustainable agriculture initiatives.

The SAWGs bring to the National Campaign and to many SAC issues, a wide diversity of organizational and grassroots interests and experience essential to informing policies that will actually work for those constituents. They play important roles in the national policy-making by developing regional voices and perspectives to be factored into the national debate and provide organizing and outreach capacity at the regional level in support of National Campaign priorities.

The California Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (CA SAWG) is a dynamic coalition dedicated to strengthening the movement for a sustainable and socially just food system in California. CA SAWG’s member organizations include farm, environmental, consumer, farmworker, public health, community food security, pesticide reform, and local advocacy groups. To promote genuinely sustainable agriculture, CA SAWG’s campaigns and programs address ecological, economic, and social justice dimensions. CA SAWG provides education to our members, coordinates meetings and communicates directly with key decision makers, mobilizes constituents through email and phone calls, and facilitates stronger collaboration among the sustainable agriculture organizations, (

The Midwest Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (MSAWG) member organizations come together to focus primarily on food and farm policy reform, especially at the federal level. Among MSAWG’s 2003 priorities: the Conservation Security Act, conservation program funding and implementation, animal factory regulation, more support for direct marketing and value added projects, commodity program and Environmental Quality Incentives Program payment limitation reform, a ban on packer ownership of livestock, contract agriculture reform, better funding for sustainable and organic agriculture research, education, and extension, beginning farmer issues, support for sustainable livestock systems, and others. MSAWG includes: IL, IN, IA, KS, MI, MN, MO, NE, ND, OH, SD, and WI. (

The Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG) works to strengthen the work of its members by providing active support and assistance in achieving shared food system goals. NESAWG focuses on: farm viability and agriculture economic development, natural resource conservation, community food security and food systems, and food citizenship. NESAWG addresses these issues through public policy reform and development, food system development projects, public education and member support services. NESAWG’s agenda reflects a “systems approach” to addressing the root causes and full spectrum of farm and food system problems. NESAWG includes: CT, DC, DE, MA, ME, MD, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RL VT, and WV. (

(Final SSAWG in-house approval pending) The Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG).is a network of organizations and individuals in the South working to create a sustainable, community-based food and fiber system. SSAWG is committed to including all persons in the South without bias. SSAWG builds on and extends grassroots efforts of farmer-based, rural community, and urban farming organizations. We teach environmentally and economically sound farming practices; help develop and share more profitable ways to market sustainably-produced foods and fiber; facilitate networking, information sharing and collaboration among organizations; and empower farmers and their supporters to be leaders in effecting changes in federal and regional agricultural policy. SSAWG includes: AL, AR, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, OK, SC, TN, TX, and VA. (

The Western Sustainable Agriculture Working (WSAWG) brings together diverse individuals and groups working in sustainable agriculture and food systems to share successful models, realize its collective strengths, build regional capacity and inform the agriculture policy debate. The WSAWG addresses issues that no one of its members can completely and effectively tackle on its own in the West. The WSAWG serves as a clearinghouse for agricultural policy, program models and analysis, and can also provide a range of other networking and support services for its members such as: region-wide issue development, staff services for joint collaborative projects and conference planning, project evaluation and project endorsements for member initiatives. WSAWG includes: AZ, CO, ID, MT, NM, NV, OK, OR, TX, UT, WA, and WY. (

Developed May 2003 by:

  • California Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
  • Midwest Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
  • National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture
  • Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
  • Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
  • Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
  • Western Sustainable Agriculture Working Group

Notes on 5.21.03 Draft Fact Sheet

  1. Many thanks and kudos go to Teresa Opheim for condensing this short version fact sheet from a much lengthier document, and for incorporating changes suggested by SAWGs and myself.
  2. This document incorporates changes suggested by Archer, Kathy Ruhf and Kathy Lawrence, those mentioned in Teresa’s email of 5/15/03, Teresa had already incorporated between draft 1 and draft 2, and some of the substantial changes Archer suggested on 5/16. Kathy Ruhf s edits are noted in pink, since only Kathy Lawrence received them, and so they have not been reviewed or agreed by the SAWG/SAC/National Campaign co-writers. Archer’s changes are in blue, and also still need to be reviewed and agreed on. Teresa and I have discussed Archer’s suggestions, and included those we think work best for this document at this time.
  3. Our hope is that this short version fact sheet can be formatted to fit on one 8V2 xl 1 page, back to back, possibly with a graphic or two. This could be posted on websites, included in press and funder packets, sent to Board members and partners, distributed at conferences, etc.
  4. Further Board and SAWG input is needed on the short version fact sheet, in particular regarding:
    1. General content and tone
    2. Catchy but clear title
    3. Accuracy