Many of the issues the National Farmers Union has developed public policy positions on are concerned with protecting and defending the quality and availability of resources that are not privately owned, but essential to the well-being of communities. These resources, often referred to as “the commons” are vulnerable if not actively managed by communities, whether through explicit regulation or cultural practices.
The commons has been defined as “things that we inherit and create jointly, and that will (hopefully) last for generations to come. The commons consists of gifts of nature such as air, oceans and wildlife as well as shared social creations such as libraries, public spaces, scientific research and creative works.” (see On the Commons for more information). The late economist Elinor Olstrom was awarded the Nobel Prize for her work on governing the commons.
The NFU has policy and is active in protecting aspects of the commons that are essential for agriculture, farming and the continuation of family farming: soil, water, biodiversity, genetics, health, climate and seed, for example. Threats to the commons include privatization and degradation. Often the NFU calls for protection of the commons by way of public democratic control and management through public regulation, transparency, public funding and democratic institutions.