Food Law Leaders Join the Farm Bill Fray

New reports tout a fair deal for farmers, food-insecure families, and the environment

Farm Bill Law Enterprise
Center for Agriculture and Food Systems

—Three reports out today from the Farm Bill Law Enterprise (FBLE) apply a justice lens to the farm bill debate underway on Capitol Hill.

The FBLE reports are the product of a novel partnership between eight law school programs, including the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) at Vermont Law School. The reports coincide with the imminent release of draft farm bills in the House and Senate, which Congressional observers anticipate next month.

In addition to CAFS, FBLE members include the Environmental Law & Policy Clinic at Duke Law School; Environmental Policy Initiative, Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, Food Law and Policy Clinic, and Health Law and Policy Clinic at Harvard Law School; Food Law Initiative at Pace University Elizabeth Haub School of Law; Resnick Program for Food Law and Policy at UCLA School of Law; and Environmental Protection Clinic at Yale Law School.

By combining expertise in food, public health, and environmental law, FBLE is the first effort of its kind.

New farm bills only happen every four years. The current farm bill expires in September, and if Congress does not act by that deadline many important programs will perish.

“The farm bill is the most important piece of legislation affecting our food and farming system,” said Emily Broad Leib, director of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic and an author on FBLE’s reports. “My colleagues and I decided to invest the time working together to address this legislation because it’s so vital to justice in the food system.”

In addition to member programs, FBLE recruited law students from across the country to work on the project. In 2016, the newly-formed FBLE dove into collaborative research. Together, faculty and students analyzed each of the farm bill’s components, research that is available on the FBLE website.

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.

The FBLE reports make recommendations for how the next farm bill can begin to meet those goals by maintaining key programs that work, adding new programs, and redistributing funding in ways that are better for health, the environment and justice.

Each report focuses on a specific theme: Diversified Agricultural Economies; Food Access, Nutrition and Public Health; and Productivity and Risk Management. The attached one-pager provides a summary of each report.

FBLE expects that their reports will convince more people to get involved. The reports can be found at FarmBillLaw.org, which will also track the bill’s progress over the coming months.

“The farm bill is a key piece of legislation that affects all Americans,” said Professor Laurie Ristino, director of the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems at VLS and an FBLE author. “The bill addresses not only issues related to farming and the environment but also food policy in the United States. The FBLE reports provide a deeper understanding of the legislation and make recommendations for improving agricultural systems, access to healthy food, and environmental quality for the benefit of all.”

The Center for Agriculture and Food Systems at VLS supports scholars and practitioners in producing practical, robust scholarship for use by the food and agriculture community. CAFS offers an expanding curriculum in food and agriculture for law and policy students, and training and legal tools to help build sustainable local and regional food systems. Recent CAFS projects include the Farmland Access Legal ToolkitFarmers Market Legal ToolkitHealthy Food Policy ProjectBlueprint for a National Food StrategyNational Gleaning Project, and Farm Animal Welfare Certification Guide. For more information about CAFS, visit vermontlaw.edu/cafs, email cafs@vermontlaw.edu, and follow on Facebook and Twitter.

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Vermont Law School, a private, independent institution, is home to the nation’s largest and deepest environmental law program. VLS offers a juris doctor curriculum that emphasizes public service; four master’s degrees—Master of Environmental Law and Policy, Master of Energy Regulation and Law, Master of Food and Agriculture Law and Policy, and Master of Arts in Restorative Justice; and four post-JD degrees —LLM in American Legal Studies (for foreign-trained lawyers), LLM in Energy Law, LLM in Environmental Law, and LLM in Food and Agriculture Law. The school features innovative experiential programs and is home to the Environmental Law Center, South Royalton Legal Clinic, Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic, Energy Clinic, Food and Agriculture Clinic, Center for Applied Human Rights, and Center for Justice Reform. For more information, visit vermontlaw.edu, find us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.