Skip to main content

Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix

Louisiana Agriculture in the Classroom

Lesson Plan

Growing a Nation Era 5b: Playing by the Rules

Grade Level
9 - 12

Students will explore the major events and changes in agriculture related to science, technology, and policy in the era of 2001 to the present, taking an in-depth look at how these elements have impacted American families and communities through the passage and enactment of government programs and policies. Grades 9-12

Estimated Time
5 hours
Materials Needed


Supporting Question 1: What role has the government played in the field of agriculture from 1600 to present?

Supporting Question 2: What has been included in the Farm Bills?

Supporting Question 3: What would I include in the next Farm Bill?

Supporting Question 4: How is the final farm bill determined?

  • Farm Bill Project (continued)

bill: a proposed draft of a law to be presented to the legislature to become a law

bioengineering: biological techniques including things such as genetic recombination to created modified versions of organisms

climate change: a change in global or regional climate patterns which can include increased temperatures and extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, etc.

drone: an unmanned aircraft guided by remote control or onboard computers

law: a binding practice or rule enforced by controlling authorities

policy: an official plan that aligns with the decisions of a governing body

sustainability: a method of harvesting or using resources so that they are not depleted and/or permanently damaged

Did You Know?
  • In 2050 farmers will be responsible for feeding approximately 10 billion people.3
  • It is projected that farmers will have to produce 70% more food than what is now produced by 2050.1
  • “Farm and ranch families make up less than 2% of the U.S. population”.1
  • “U.S. consumers spend just 10% of their disposable income on food each year”.1
  • “One U.S. farm feeds 165 people annually in the United States and abroad. Of those 165 people, 106 are in the U.S. and 59 are outside the U.S.”.1
  • “There are 3.2 million U.S. farm operators who work on 2.1 million farms”.1
  • Today, 99% of all U.S. farms are owned by individuals, family partnerships or family corporations. Just 1% of America’s farms and ranches are owned by non-family corporations”.1
Background Agricultural Connections
C3 Framework

Growing a Nation: Playing by the Rules uses the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework's Inquiry Arc as a blueprint to lead students through an investigation of how government agricultural programs and policies impact American families and communities. The Inquiry Arc consists of four dimensions of informed inquiry in social studies:

  1. Developing questions and planning inquiries;
  2. Applying disciplinary concepts and tools;
  3. Evaluating sources and using evidence;
  4. Communicating conclusions and taking informed action.

The four dimensions of the C3 Framework center on the use of questions to spark curiosity, guide instruction, deepen investigations, acquire rigorous content, and apply knowledge and ideas in real world settings to become active and engaged citizens in the 21st century.6 For more information about the C3 Framework, visit

C3 Table- Growing a Nation Era 5b: Playing by the Rules
Project-based learning is an inquiry-based practice that can be used to implement this C3 lesson. The following crosswalk shows the essential design elements of PBL and how they align with the inquiry arc of the C3 Framework.
PBL/C3 Table- Growing a Nation Era 5B: Playing by the Rules 

Playing by the Rules (2001-present)

Playing by the Rules (2001-present) is the fifth story event in the Growing a Nation online interactive timeline. The timeline provides a chronological presentation of significant historical events focusing on the important role agriculture has played in America's development. Growing a Nation uses a graphic organizer (timeline) and online multimedia resources to bring depth and meaning to historical events. The interactive timeline and lesson plans merge seamlessly with existing American history textbooks and high school history curricula.

Our country has witnessed sweeping changes—from the untamed wild times of Buffalo Bill to the technological era of Bill Gates and Elon Musk—but food has never lost its central role in our lives. Food not only sustains life but also enriches us in many ways. It warms us on cold, dreary days, entices us with its many aromas, and provides endless variety to the everyday world.

Food is also woven into the fabric of our Nation, our culture, our institutions, and our families. Food is on the scene when we celebrate and when we mourn. We use it for camaraderie, as a gift, and as a reward. We are all aware of how food has changed. What Americans often forget, however, is the remarkable system that delivers to us the most abundant, reasonably priced, and safest food in the world. The American food system—from the farmer to the consumer—is a series of interconnected parts. The farmer produces the food, the processors work their magic, and the wholesalers and retailers deliver the products to consumers, whose choices send market signals back through the system.

Iterations or versions of the farm bill have existed since during the Great Depression in 1933 (The National Agricultural Law Center. n.d.). The most current version of the farm bill was passed in 2018 and it includes programs for income support, food and nutrition, land conservation, trade promotion, rural development, research, forestry, horticulture, and other additional programs overseen by the Department of Agriculture (USDA) (H.R. 2 (115th): Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, 2018).

  • Activity 1 encourages students to explore what agricultural programs, laws, and policies have existed over time and how each has impacted American agriculture throughout American history including impacts to culture, society, community, economics, and geography. 
  • Activity 2 invites students to examine farm bills enacted within the last decade to see what issues have come to the forefront in agricultural policy.
  • Activity 3 asks the students to focus on agricultural issues from 2001-Present and construct the next iteration of the farm bill to assist in moving agriculture into the future.
  • Activity 4 brings the students together to share their learning through persuading their classmates to support their version of the farm bill. Also included in Activity 4 is a time for the class as a whole to come together and construct a class farm bill.

Compelling Question: How do government agricultural programs and policies impact American families and communities?

  1. Write the numbers 1-4 or 1-6 on your ball.
  2. Stand in the middle of your classroom and hold the ball up for your students to see. Without rotating the ball, ask students in various points of the room which number(s) they can see. For example, ask a student in the front of the classroom what number he or she sees, followed by the same question to a students in the back and sides of the room. Each student will see all or part of different numbers.
  3. Ask your students, "Why, if you are all looking at the same object, a ball, are you seeing different numbers?" Explain that it is because each student is seeing the ball from a different perspective or point of view. Each student sees different numbers from where they are sitting. They may see an entire number or part of a number. There will be some numbers that they do not see at all.
  4. Instruct students to keep this object lesson in mind as we move forward in the lesson. Inform students that they will be learning how government policies and legislation impact American citizens. We will specifically be looking at the Farm Bill, a piece of legislation that can be viewed in many perspectives. 
  5. Show students the video, What is the farm bill and why does it matter? 
  6. Pause the video at the following time stamps for discussion and to check for understanding:
    • (4:07): When did the Farm Bill start and why? What three main topics does the Farm Bill address?
      • The first farm bill was developed after World War II in the Great Depression by Franklin D. Roosevelt. The farm bill supports farmers, feeds the hungry, and protects the environment.
    • (4:40): To discuss the statement, "... a lot of the money goes to 'big ag,' not struggling family farmers." Ask the question, "What do you think the narrator means by "big ag"?
      • Clarify that farm bill funds do not go to large private agribusinesses (e.g., Cargill, Corteva, Bayer Crop Science), but yes some of the funds may go to large family farms or corporate farms. See additional information about farm size in the red text below.
    • (4:47): Discuss the statement, ", a lot of that money goes to things we don't even eat."
      • This statement refers to farm commodities such as ethanol used for fuel, feed used for livestock, and cotton used for fabric. Challenge students to think critically and determine if and how we really do consume these products.
    • (4:56): What are the ingredients of "cheap foods that drive obesity?" Are these ingredients grown on a farm just like foods that are considered healthy?
      • Yes. All foods, whether healthy, less healthy, processed, packaged, preserved, or raw are all products of farming. If you've noticed that healthful foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables cost significantly more than snack or "junk" foods (that are typically high in sugar or salt and made with grain products), you are right. This is because it costs significantly less to produce grains (wheat to make flour and corn to make corn syrup) than it does to produce fruits and vegetables. See Junk food is cheap and healthful food is expensive, but don't blame the farm bill for more information.
    • (6:09): Referring back to the beach ball, ask how perspectives of political parties impact the portion of the farm bill addressing hunger and the food stamp program.
      • Anti-hunger programs such as SNAP can be seen as helping people only in urban areas, but in reality, as was described, people in rural areas are served as well. This could be forgotten when the political parties are discussing and debating issues such as food stamps. If properly developed and supported by both parties, this program could actually help support people facing food insecurity and in turn assist both Democratic and Republican constituents/voters.
    • (6:34): Is it possible for farmers and environmentalists to compromise?
      • Farmers rely on the environment and natural resources to farm. Without land, fertile soil, and water they would be unable to farm. For these reasons some say farmers are working environmentalists. Using the beach ball, discuss perspectives that are shared and others that may not be shared between these two groups.
  7. Hold up the beachball in the center of the room one more time. The beachball now represents the farm bill. Summarize the introduction and prepare students for the next portions of the lesson by recognizing that there are many perspectives to learn from and consider regarding the farm bill and the many moving parts that it addresses. 
  8. On a whiteboard or chart paper display the question, "How do government agricultural programs and policies impact American families and communities?" Explain to the students that they will be investigating this compelling question.
As the world population has grown and technology has expanded the ability for farmers to grow more food, some farms have grown very large in comparison to farms in decades that have passed. Media may use terms such as 'big ag,' factory farms, or industrial farms to describe large-scale farms. it's important to note that no matter the size of these farms, 99% of all U.S. farms are owned by individuals, family partnerships or family corporations. Just 1% of America’s farms and ranches are owned by non-family corporations. Considering the economic trends of the last 50 years, large farms have an advantage when you consider how economies of scale work. This has resulted in many family farms incorporating for scale, for tax purposes, and entering contracts with agribusinesses. In 2016, 2.1 million farms dot America’s rural landscape. About 99 percent of U.S. farms are operated by families – individuals, family partnerships or family corporations. To learn more view the America's Diverse Family Farms, 2016 Edition.” 
Explore and Explain

Supporting Question 1: What role has the government played in the field of agriculture from 1600 to present?

  1. Explain to the students that they will investigate the question, "What role has the government played in the field of agriculture from 1600 to present?"
  2. Give each student one copy of the Government Programs and Policies Over Time handout along with the following three instructions to successfully complete the assignment:
    • Use the Growing a Nation Multimedia Timeline to find ten government programs or policies related to agriculture. Record the details of each event on the handout.
    • There should be two events from each of the five eras. Each era is viewed separately by selecting it from the menu.
    • To more easily find the events on the timeline, use the "filters" option and select "Government Programs and Policies."
  3. Provide students with access to a computer lab or mobile devices to navigate the media and complete the assignment.
  4. Once the students have explored the programs and policies found within the five eras of Growing a Nation, have a class discussion using the following questions—
    • Comparing and contrasting the government programs and policies over time, what role did the government play in the field of agriculture?
    • Looking at the policies and programs, which do you think had the biggest impact on agricultural producers and consumers?
    • Looking at the past and current government programs and policies, what role should the government play in the future of agriculture? Explain why you believe the government should play this role. 
  5. Revisit the question, "What role has the government played in the field of agriculture from 1600 to present?" (The government provides food safety inspection services, regulates the production, transportation, processing, and marketing of commodities, regulates the use of chemicals to improve safety, and funds scientific research.)

Supporting Question 2: What has been included in the Farm Bills?

  1. Now that the students have explored the government’s role in programs, laws, and policies related to agriculture over time, they will now spend some time taking an in-depth look at the farm bills that were passed in the last decade. Explain to the students that they will investigate the question, "What has been included in the Farm Bills?"
  2. Give each student one copy of the What's in the Bill handout.
  3. Using mobile devices or a computer lab, have students access the Growing a Nation Multimedia Timeline and navigate to the era, “Information Age 2001 - Present.
  4. Divide the class into three groups. Assign each group one of the following bills:
  5. As the students take an in-depth look at their assigned bill, have them record their answers on the What’s in the Bill? handout. You may choose to have students work individually at first to answer the questions and then have them get into their groups in order to divide and conquer the information. Or, you may have the students divide up the bill at the beginning of their work time and discuss their findings while they work.
  6. After the groups have explored their individual farm bills, give each student one copy Farm Bill Venn Diagram.
  7. Have the students share-out their findings with the other groups. This can be done as a whole class or you may divide the students into groups of three with each farm bill being represented by one group member.
  8. As the students share their findings, they will complete the Farm Bill Venn Diagram. If the class did not work as a large group to complete this handout, it might be helpful for the class to come together as a whole group and share-out some of what they added to their Venn Diagram so that you can check for overall understanding and the groups can learn from others’ perspectives and findings.
  9. Revisit the question, "What has been included in the Farm Bills?" (The farm bill includes items to support farmers, addresses hunger, and aims to manage policies to protect the environment.)

Supporting Question 3: What would I include in the next Farm Bill?

  1. Give each student or group of students one copy of the Farm Bill Project handout. (This activity can be completed in small groups or individually.)
  2. Inform students that they will continue to use the Growing a Nation Interactive Timeline for this activity, except now they will be exploring all of the issues, items, and events that have taken place from 2001 to the present day (rather than just the "Government Programs and Policies" section). Explain to the students that they will investigate the question, "What would I include in the next Farm Bill?" They will evaluate and select the events that should be taken into consideration as legislators move towards creating the next iteration of the farm bill. 
  3. Instruct students to use the Farm Bill Project handout and complete the following:
    • Explore all events contained in the "Information Age" era of the timeline.
    • Answer the five questions located on the first page of the handout.
    • Take notes (as you review the Growing a Nation Timeline) about the key items that should be considered in the creation of the next farm bill (pages 2-3 of handout).
    • Begin crafting the next farm bill using the graphic organizer (pages 4-5).
    • Create a summary of your new farm bill (page 6).
  4. Revisit the question, "What would I include in the next Farm Bill?" (Answers will vary.)

Supporting Question 4: How is the final farm bill determined?

  1. Explain to the students that they will investigate the question, "How is the final farm bill determined?"
  2. Now that the students (individually or in small groups) have created their summaries of their farm bills and have written speeches promoting their farm bills, the students/groups will share their summaries and speeches with the class as if they were a member of congress presenting their bill on the floor.
  3. As each bill is presented, instruct the remainder of the class to take note of things that are similar to their bills, different from their bills, and things that they believe should ultimately be included in a final iteration of the farm bill.
  4. Once all of the students/groups have presented, come together for a class discussion in which you will decide and debate what should go into the class’s final version of the farm bill.
  5. Use the following questions to help guide the discussion/debate:
    • Looking at all of the bills presented, what are the similarities and differences among the bills?
    • From the issues that were presented, what are the non-negotiables that should be included in the new bill? Why are these specific issues so important?
  6. Revisit the question, "How is the final farm bill determined?" (When a bill is passed in identical form by both the Senate and the House, it is sent to the president for their signature. If the president signs the bill, it becomes a law. Laws are also known as Acts of Congress. A farm bill that gets signed into law may take on a new title like, "The Food and Agricultural Act of [year]" or "Food and Conservation Act of [year]."

Using evidence from historical sources, construct an argument (e.g., essay, project, video production, portfolio, detailed outline, poster) that addresses the compelling question, "How do government agricultural programs and policies impact American families and communities?"

  • Taking Informed Action
    • Understand: Identify an item from the current Farm Bill.
    • Assess: Determine whether or not the item has a positive impact on American families and communities.
    • Act: Create an advertisement (TV, newspaper, or radio) to promote the item or to promote an alternate item that should be included in the next Farm Bill.
  • Prior to Activities 3 and 4, help the students better understand how bills become laws. Ask the following questions:
    • Let’s review, why do we have laws in the United States?
    • How are laws made in the U.S.?
    • Who plays a role in the process of creating laws in the U.S.?
  • Following the class discussion have the students watch the School House Rock: I’m Just a Bill episode. This is an old "vintage" video, but it does an extremely good job describing how a bill becomes a law in the U.S. Following the video, you will want to let your students know that they will be taking on the role of legislatures in congress during the creation of a new iteration of the farm bill (in Activities 3 and 4). You may even choose to discuss different key people that are currently in the roles that play a part in moving a bill to a law including members of congress and the senate such as the Speaker of the House, the Majority Leader of the Senate. You may also want to discuss the president’s role so that students can relate these roles to current events that they may have heard about, as well, as the process of checks and balances in the United States government.
  • In tandem with Activity 2, once the students have explored the farm bill they have been assigned, have the students dig deeper into the backgrounds of the legislators that were a part of the decision-making process by looking at the committee members that wrote the bill. Have the students answer the following questions:

    • Who were the members of the legislative committee that constructed the farm bill and what states do they represent?
    • How might the legislators’ backgrounds and/or the state that they represent impact decisions that they made when writing the farm bill? For example, if a legislator was representing a state from the Midwest where corn and soybeans are the main crops what decisions might they have made because of this factor. Or, if a legislator was representing a Western state where irrigation is important for the growth of crops, how might their decisions be different than other legislators in terms of water usage and regulation?
  • In tandem with Activity 3, assist students in better understanding the issues and events that are incorporated into Growing a Nation: Information Age timeline. This activity requires students to dig deeper into the items found within the timeline and gain a clearer understanding of what was occurring during this era. Instruct students to answer the questions that are embedded within the timeline’s sub-events. For example, if students navigate to “Sustainable Practices in Agriculture” and read about “What is Sustainable Agriculture?” they can also answer the embedded questions within the event. These questions can be completed by having students work individually or in small groups. What the students learn through answering the embedded questions can then assist them with writing their farm bill and providing rationales for their decisions throughout the writing process. These questions may even help students think of issues for their farm bill that they might not have otherwise considered.

  1. American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture. (2017). Food and Farm Facts.
  2. Education World. (2019). Venn 3. Retrieved from
  3. Nutrien. (2018). Journey 2050. Retrieved from
  4. H.R. 2 (115th): Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. (2018). Summary. Retrieved from
  5. The National Agricultural Law Center. (n.d.). United States Farm Bills. Retrieved from
Courtney Clausen, Debra Spielmaker, Andrea Gardner
National Center for Agricultural Literacy
We welcome your feedback! If you have a question about this lesson or would like to report a broken link, please send us an email. If you have used this lesson and are willing to share your experience, we will provide you with a coupon code for 10% off your next purchase at AgClassroomStore.