CAFS works with stakeholders throughout the food system to develop law and policy resources. Ahead, learn more about the projects we're working on and the policy solutions we're developing.
A thriving local food system depends on the success of farms and food entrepreneurs, yet many of these businesses lack legal support. CAFS partnered with the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) to establish the Vermont Legal Food Hub, a program that matches income-eligible farmers, food entrepreneurs, and related organizations with skilled attorneys willing to provide free legal services. CLF launced the first Legal Food Hub in Massachusetts in 2014; since then, hubs have expanded to Maine, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, placing more than 450 clients with attorneys and leveraging more than $2.5 million in pro bono legal assistance. Now serving as primary administrator of the Vermont hub, CAFS is recruiting attorneys to the network and accepting applications for legal assistance. In 2020 CAFS published the Vermont edition of Farm and Food Law: A Guide for Lawyers in the Legal Food Hub. Visit legalfoodhub.org to learn more.
Agricultural biodiversity is a vital resource for plant breeders trying to improve crops’ nutrient content, disease resistance, resilience to adverse weather conditions, and many other traits. Yet, overall agricultural biodiversity is declining worldwide, and some plant genetic resources are unavailable to plant breeders and researchers because they are subject to intellectual property protections in the form of patents on plants. "The Plant Breeder's Guide to Preventing Patents through Defensive Publication" aims to create a resource for plant breeders to understand the U.S. patent system as it relates to plant varieties, and to preempt patenting of plant varieties or traits through defensive publication. Preempting patenting maintains more agricultural genetic resources in the public domain, ensuring access to them for plant breeders and farmers alike.
The lack of welfare standards and transparency in industrial animal agriculture endangers farm animals, misleads consumers, and puts higher-welfare farmers at a disadvantage. Some farmers seek animal welfare certifications in order to communicate their higher-welfare practices to conscious consumers. But deciding what certification to pursue—and how to pursue it—can be complicated. CAFS teamed up with ASPCA to create a comprehensive guide to animal welfare certification for farmers and business owners. Updated in October 2019, the resource includes case studies, step-by-step breakdowns of each certification process, and a comparison of key differences between three recommended programs: Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Humane, and Global Animal Partnership.
Farm to Institution Policy Project
The Food & Agriculture Clinic collaborated with staff, researchers, and the policy workgroup at Farm to Institution New England (FINE) to produce policy snapshots for each New England state that provide analysis of key state procurement policy trends, accomplishments, and gaps, as well as recommendations for strengthening state procurement policy to advance local food purchasing by state institutions. The accompanying report, Regional Trends in New England Farm to Institution Procurement Policy, builds on the snapshots’ key findings.
EXTENSION LEGAL SERVICES INITIATIVE
CAFS has partnered with University of Vermont Extension and the Northeast Center to Advance Food Safety to develop the Extension Legal Services Initiative (ELSI), which responds to the need for farmers and food producers to receive answers to legal questions that arise in the course of their operations. ELSI currently focuses on questions around compliance with the federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which is being implemented gradually for different sizes of farms and food businesses. Food and Agriculture Clinic students presented on their work to date in a webinar in May 2019, and will produce a series of fact sheets addressing the most common legal questions associated with FSMA compliance by the project's conclusion in late 2020.
"Food Systems Resilience: Concepts & Policy Approaches" presents advocates and policymakers with a suite of policy tools for strengthening food system resilience. With climate-related shocks and stressors adding to existing hazards facing food systems, this is a critical time to examine food system vulnerabilities and work to ameliorate them. This resource provides an overview of the current scholarship on resilience, especially as it applies to food systems, as a means to predict, assess, and improve how those systems cope with disruption.
This project provides educational resources for farmworkers relating to applicable housing and employment law. Part of the project, funded by the National Agricultural Library, provides this information via a report assessing federal employment and housing laws relevant to farmworkers, and uses Vermont as an example to highlight state laws that can extend those protections. Leveraging funds from the Vermont Community Foundation, CAFS partnered with Migrant Justice to develop an accompanying Housing and Employment Rights Handbook tailored to workers on Vermont dairies. The Handbook is available in English and Spanish.
This is a four-year project funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and led by CAFS in collaboration with the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT) and the Farmers Market Coalition (FMC). The Farmers Market Legal Toolkit includes legal resources, best practice recommendations, and case studies for market leaders on enhancing market governance structures, accepting SNAP benefits, and managing common risks. The online tools can help enhance market resiliency and accessibility, increasing local food, strengthening local economies, and improving food access across the country.
This project, a partnership between CAFS and Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, examines the potential for developing a national food strategy in the United States. Through legal and original research, the Blueprint Project considers the need for a national food strategy, how other countries have developed national food strategies in response to similar food systems challenges faced by the United States, and the process by which the United States has developed national strategies in response to other issues. The resources created by this project provide a roadmap for the adoption of national food strategy in order to ensure a food secure future for all Americans. Visit the project website here, and read and interact with the report here.
This is a four-year project funded by the USDA National Agricultural Library, and led by CAFS in collaboration with the Public Health Law Center at Mitchell Hamline School of Law and the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut. The Healthy Food Policy Project (HFPP) identifies and elevates local laws that seek to promote access to healthy food, contribute to strong local economies, an improved environment, and health equity, with a focus on socially disadvantaged and marginalized groups. The project will identify and document pioneering and exemplary local policy innovations to increase awareness about promising and emerging policy approaches and support communities in the development of their own policy solutions. For more information, read our project overview and project definitions here, see our Food System Crosswalk document here, and stay tuned for a full website launch in November 2017 (www.healthyfoodpolicyproject.org).
The National Gleaning Project addresses the need for a national network to connect organizations and individuals engaged in gleaning and food recovery across the United States. These organizations vary in size, structure, and mission, but are all working to reduce food waste and insecurity in their communities. The Project developed the online gleaning resources hub to provide a clearinghouse for gleaning and food recovery-related information.
This is a three-year project funded by the USDA National Agricultural Library, and led by CAFS in partnership with BCM Environmental and Land Law, PLLC, and Heyman Legal. Geared towards farm-seekers, farmers, landowners, and their advocates, the Farmland Access Legal Toolkit offers information on more affordable and equitable land access arrangements. This web resource contains sections on leasing, farmland transfer, and innovative models of access, and features a wide variety of case studies.
The Farm Bill Law Enterprise (FBLE) is a novel partnership between eight law school programs, including CAFS. FBLE formed in 2016 to pursue collaborative research on the farm bill. In addition to members’ programs, FBLE recruited law students from across the country to work on the project. Together, faculty and students analyzed each of the farm bill’s components. This research helped FBLE members develop shared goals for a farm bill that meets the long-term needs of our society. These goals include a reliable and nutritious food supply, an honest living for farmers, a healthy environment, and a strong safety net against hunger. FBLE published three reports in March 2018 to coincide with imminent releases of draft farm bills in Congress. These reports provide recommendations for how the next farm bill can begin to meet FBLE’s shared goals by maintaining key programs that work, adding new programs, and redistributing funding in ways that are better for health, the environment, and justice.
The Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) partners with the National Farm to School Network (NFSN) to produce this annual resource. The most recent version, the State Farm to School Policy Handbook: 2002-2018, is a tool for those working to advance the farm to school movement. The Handbook summarizes and analyzes bills and resolutions introduced between January 1, 2002, and December 31, 2018, from the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories. It enables users to search bills by both jurisdiction and topic. The Handbook provides: analysis of and infographics detailing state farm to school legislative trends; summaries of proposed bills since 2002, whether enacted, defeated, or pending; case studies on successful farm to school advocacy efforts in Hawai‘i, Michigan, New Mexico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Vermont; and additional resources for advocates and policymakers to support state farm to school policies.
The State Farm to School Policy Handbook: 2002-2018 builds on a survey that was originally released in 2011, updated in 2013, 2014, and 2017, and was previously called the State Farm to School Legislative Survey.
The purpose of this website is to provide consumers with information to help them navigate food labels and make informed food choices about the products they buy. Unfortunately, food labels and what they mean are not straightforward. This site explains the most common statements on food labels, including what information must be disclosed, what information is voluntary, and what is not included on food labels.