Regulation of the American food system is marked by inequality and inefficiency. There is no federal “food” agency; instead, food is regulated by fifteen different agencies under myriad federal laws, resulting in conflict, inefficiency, and redundancy.
Multiple agencies regulate food safety, production practices, agricultural workers, health and nutrition, environmental impacts, and trade, among other issues. Federal agencies have taken some steps to coordinate on discrete food system issues, yet none of these initiatives has led to a comprehensive strategy that holistically addresses critical food system challenges. The need for a coordinated federal approach to food and agricultural law and policy has increased dramatically since 2017. Our food system has been in crisis for years; given the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic coupled with the strong, sustained efforts to address systemic racial inequality that raise significant food system issues in the U.S., our nation can no longer afford to postpone strategic food system planning.
The Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) advocates for the creation of a U.S. National Food Strategy. In 2017, FLPC and Vermont Law School’s Center for Agriculture and Food Systems developed a Blueprint for a National Food Strategy to provide a procedural framework for comprehensive food system law and policymaking. It provided an overview of U.S. food system regulation and identified inconsistencies in some of these laws and authorities. It offered recommendations for a coordinated solution based on an analysis of selected domestic and international models.
In 2020, The Urgent Call for a U.S. National Food Strategy was developed to illustrate the need for a coordinated federal approach to food and agricultural law and policymaking through an analysis and review of new domestic strategies and coordination approaches and international food strategies developed since 2017. In addition, the report considers some of the major impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the food system – disproportionate food insecurity affecting BIPOC communities, alarming rates of infection among food and agricultural workers, significant threats to farm income, a dramatic increase in food waste – to consider how these issues demonstrate both an urgent need for a national food strategy and how they might have been alleviated and addressed more quickly with the kind of coordinated food system leadership a national food strategy would provide.