Our research informs policy decisions that seek to ensure the viability of small and mid-scale farms and their values based supply chain partners.
Starting with the early development of the “disappearing middle” hypothesis in the 1980s, farm policy has been integral to the question of how to maintain the viability of mid-scale agriculture. Marty Strange, a renowned advocate for family farms and rural communities, called the question of what to do with medium-sized farms the policy issue of the time. Most policy efforts in the 1980s focused on commodity support, but raising commodity prices for all producers does not protect mid-sized farms. Some experts at that time believed that targeted income supplements for medium-sized farms were the answer. This solution was never enacted.
Strange presciently wrote that the most important issue in addressing the problems of mid-sized farms is a “dynamic of fair competition, economic opportunity, growth and expansion, and the exercise of economic power.” These dynamics have fueled interest in the Agriculture of the Middle initiative and the enterprises profiled in the values based food supply chain case studies. It is manifest in the policies and programs that these supply chains utilize and in the policy changes adopted by federal, state, local and private interests in service of a more viable mid-sized agricultural sector in the United States.