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The Center for Agriculture and Food Systems works with partners across the country to create law and policy guides for food system stakeholders. Browse the list of standalone guides below, and visit our projects page to learn more about ongoing projects that encompass a wider range of resources. 



May 2024
This newly updated handbook provides information on employment and housing rights for migrant dairy workers in Vermont in English or Spanish.  View the guide »​​​​​​


April 2024
This guide will help gleaning organizations understand and manage some of the food safety liability risks of value-added production.  View the guide »​​​​​​


March 2024
This guide is intended for use by planners, local policy makers, food policy councils, and members of the public who want to promote urban agriculture through zoning reform.  View the guide »​​​​​​


November 2023
Because they interact with many parts of the food system, food hubs must comply with different food safety laws and regulations. That compliance may be more complex than it would be for food system actors who only work at one level of the food system. This resource, in conjunction with legal advice, can help food hub leaders understand the legal landscape in order to build compliance and risk management strategies. View the guide »​​​​​​


March 2022
Compiled by Environmental Law Librarian Christine Ryan, this research guide includes free, open-access resources related to food and agricultural law and policy. Attorneys, farmers, extension professionals, and anyone conducting food and agriculture research—in addition to law students—can use the guide to find helpful resources. View the guide »​​​​​​


November 2021
Current use programs—which generally allow farmers to pay taxes on their land at current (agricultural) value rather than its assessed value for another non-farming use—are an important tool in the farmland preservation toolbox.  View the guide »​​​​​​

Report coverReorganizing a Farm Business with Chapter 12 of the Bankruptcy Code: A Brief Guide

October 2021
Can bankruptcy sometimes be a helpful tool to save a farm? This guide covers Chapter 12 of the bankruptcy code, a little-known strategy to transform farming operations. Read more »​​​​​​

Report coverUnderstanding FSMA's Preventive Controls Rule: A Guide for Grain Businesses

August 2021
Do you grow, harvest, store, or process food-grade grain or grain products? This resource may help you determine if you need to comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act’s Preventive Controls for Human Food Rule. Read more »​​​​​​

Report coverA Breed Apart: The Plant Breeder’s Guide to Preventing Patents through Defensive Publication

October 2019
“Defensive publication” keeps genetic resources available without use restrictions or liability for infringement, and for a fraction of the cost of pursuing a patent. For plant breeders, the process can make genetic material more widely available for research. Ultimately, this could also make seeds more affordable and accessible for farmers. This guide outlines practices for breeders to keep genetic resources in the public domain. Read more »​​​​​​

Report coverFarm Animal Welfare Certification Guide

October 2019
The Farm Animal Welfare Certification Guide helps farmers and business owners adopt and communicate higher animal welfare standards. Read more »​​​​​​

report coverBuilding Resilient Local Meat Supply Chains: How On-Farm Slaughter Fits into the Federal Meat Inspection Act

On-farm slaughter is a central component of a localized, resilient food system for small-scale farmers and their communities. This report examines how federal and state meat inspection laws have exempted on-farm slaughter practices, and what more can be done to support these operations. View the report »

report coverThe State of Prison Food in New England: A Survey of Federal and State Policy

Developed in partnership with Farm to Institution New England (FINE), this report examines the laws and policies that shape food in New England’s publicly operated correctional facilities. It offers recommendations for advocates and policymakers to ensure nutritious and safe meals while improving how prison food is sourced and served. View the report »

report coverEnergy and Equity in Cannabis Cultivation

As cannabis is legalized in more US states, policies are needed to improve the sustainability of energy-intensive indoor cultivation. This report from the Farm and Energy initiative, a join project of CAFS and the Institute for Energy and the Environment, focuses on the social equity impacts of regulating energy consumption in the cannabis industry. View the report »

report coverManaged Rotational Grazing Policies: An Overview of Farm Bill Programs to Support Regenerative Agriculture

Facing an accelerating climate crisis, many livestock farmers are seeking a system of management that supports their livelihoods while protecting climate and food system resilience. This report explores how farm bill programs can be leveraged to encourage managed rotational grazing, a system of livestock management that is a more climate-friendly alternative to industrial forms of livestock production. View the report »

report coverLocal Policy to Promote Healthy Food Access: A Food Systems Framework

This newly-updated resource from the Healthy Food Policy Project can help policymakers, leaders, advocates, researchers, and others understand the range of policy options for communities seeking to increase access to healthy food. View the resource »

report coverWhat is "Healthy" Food? Regulating Health Claims on Food Product Labels

As FDA considers redefining the term "healthy" to make it align with current nutrition science and the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans, this brief explores the controversial use of "healthy" claims on food product labels. View the brief »

Cover of the Cell Cultured Meat briefWhat's the Beef? Debates Over Cell-Cultured Meat

As cell-cultured or “lab-grown” meats come closer to hitting grocery store shelves, federal and state regulators are facing questions about how these products should be labeled. This issue brief from the Labels Unwrapped project breaks down the debates. View the brief »

Cover of the Exposed and at Risk ReportExposed and At Risk: Opportunities to Strengthen Enforcement of Pesticide Regulations for Farmworker Safety 

The second report from the Food System Worker Law and Policy Project, “Exposed and At Risk” determines that even existing regulations for pesticide safety are often underenforced. In partnership with Farmworker Justice, this report aims to prompt law and policy solutions formulated with the lived experience of farmworkers in mind. View the report »

Headshots of the summer internsRethinking Manure Biogas: Policy Considerations to Promote Equity and Protect the Climate and Environment 

Is converting animal waste into fuel, known as manure biogas, the solution to the approximately 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions caused by animal agriculture globally? Some may think so—but relying on manure biogas systems on factory farms to combat climate change ignores very real consequences these systems have to the environment and the communities in which they are housed, while doubling down on the system of factory farming that is responsible for the underlying emissions. This report analyzes the role that manure biogas plays in a climate mitigation strategy, specifically tackling its environmental justice impacts and how policymakers can ensure an effective and equitable climate future. View the report »

Towards Equitable and Just Food SystemsTowards Equitable and Just Food Systems: Exploring Food Justice, Food Sovereignty, and Ending Food Apartheid Policy & Practice 

This new report from the Healthy Food Policy Project delves deep into terms and frameworks for discussing equitable food systems such as food justice, food sovereignty, and food apartheid. As terminology describing equitable food systems adapts and evolves, it is more important than ever to think about what these terms mean and how they should be used in different contexts, including in policy. This report includes definitions of common terms, policy examples, and additional resources for individual and group learning.  View the report »

Headshots of the summer internsAddressing Consolidation in Agriculture: USDA’s Response to President Biden’s Directive to Promote Competition in the American Economy 

President Biden’s Executive Order in July 2021 encouraged USDA to address issues of consolidation in the agriculture industry that have hampered competition and unfairly discriminated against certain producers. This analysis outlines the requirements included in President Biden’s Executive Order, the United States Department of Agriculture’s response to Biden’s directive thus far, and some recommendations for how the agency could expand its regulatory impact to promote competition within the sector. View the report »

Headshots of the summer internsSeafood Fraud: Analysis of Legal Approaches in the United States

Among types of food fraud, seafood fraud is prolific—and distinct in its implications for natural resource management. Currently, there is no single authority that regulates seafood in the United States, resulting in a patchwork approach that simultaneously provides opportunities for specialized expertise while also allowing for significant gaps in enforcement. This report examines how the United States currently regulates seafood and makes recommendations for policymakers to address the issue of seafood fraud both domestically and abroad.
View the report »​​​​​​

report coverEssentially Unprotected: A Focus on Farmworker Health Laws and Policies Addressing Pesticide Exposure and Heat-Related Illness

This report explores gaps in U.S. laws and policies that put farmworkers at risk. It draws from a survey of federal and state laws, specifically focusing on those that affect two of farmworkers’ most critical workplace hazards: pesticide exposure and heat-related illness, and offers recommendations for policies that are urgently needed to protect farmworkers. View the report »​​​​​​

Headshots of the summer internsDefining Local Food: An Analysis of State Approaches and Challenges

“Local” is frequently used to describe food in both the law and the marketplace—but the term remains largely undefined. And when it comes to local food legislation, that vagueness can make it difficult to meet policy goals and evaluate impacts. This report examines the term “local” from a legal perspective. It also draws from a nationwide scan of state policies to compare different approaches to defining the term. We hope it will be useful to policymakers, researchers, and advocates who are involved in creating or evaluating local food legislation.  View the report »​​​​​​

report coverBlueprint for a National Food Strategy

The Blueprint for a National Food Strategy examines the need for a cohesive national approach to food system regulation through legal and scholarly research. The project's latest report, published in 2020, provides a roadmap for the adoption of national food strategy in order to ensure a food secure future for all Americans.  Read more »​​​​​​

report coverDefining and Regulating Agritourism

While many of us have a vague idea of what agritourism means, there’s no standard legal definition—and policies are evolving quickly. That’s why CAFS released a report comparing state agritourism laws across the country and identifying legislative trends. The goal is to assist policymakers in drafting effective agritourism legislation addressing key areas like liability, zoning, fundings, taxation, and licensing.  Read more »​​​​​​

report coverFood Systems Resilience: Concepts and Policy Approaches

The Food Systems Resilience project conducts policy research to strengthen food systems against climate change and other hazards. This report aims to help advocates and policymakers to develop and adopt policies that foster resilience within their own food systems, or to complement efforts they are already undertaking. Read more »​​​​​​