Food Localization: Empowering Community Food Systems Through the Farm Bill

183 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2018 Last revised: 9 Aug 2018

See all articles by Brian Fink

Brian Fink

Yale University - Law School; University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law

Alexandra Schluntz

Yale University - Law School

Joshua Galperin

Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University

Date Written: June 11, 2018


Our intent in this Article is not to delineate foods that are local or not local, nor is it to lionize one agricultural production method over another. Rather, we hope to build on the literature that for many decades has documented how local communities have emerged as influential actors on the American food system through establishing control over local supply chains often alongside national and global supply chains. We begin with Part I, which explores how some food-system scholars have conceptualized these democratic changes occurring. We look to Thomas Lyson’s concept of civic agriculture, which attempts to move corporation-oriented communities away from the model of industrial agriculture and toward a model in which individuals are locally empowered in the land and marketplace. We also review Neil D. Hamilton’s concept of food democracy, which, like civic agriculture, acts as a set of alternative choices to the industrial food system and allows for more localized control of the food supply chain. Afterward, we attempt to connect two seemingly unrelated case studies to demonstrate what a food system influenced by Lyson and Hamilton could look like and how it could empower local communities. Next, in Part II, we turn to the federal government’s local-food policy. We discuss why laws promoting local food systems are proxies for laws democratizing our food system, and we then review a selection of federal legislation, often originating in the Farm Bill, that promote localization of the food system. In Part III, we explore deliberative democracy, a political framework that encourages the sort of participation and representation conceptualized in food democracy and civic agriculture. We then summarize the work of contemporary schools who have identified how deliberative democracy has been crafted by food-system participants. We highlight examples from the American political process to demonstrate their current existence in the food system. Afterward, we observe more deeply how deliberative democracy has grounded federal agriculture policy. Finally, in Part IV, influenced by past Farm Bills and historical agricultural policy, we propose various mechanisms Congress can implement in future Farm Bills to further legitimize its actions to promote localized food systems, as well as to provide structure to the democratization efforts it continues to support. Specifically, we propose various ways Congress can increase diverse representation in the food system and federal agricultural programs, which, through expanded access to decision-making and the strengthening of self-determination among an array of individuals, provide for further and enhanced food localization.

Keywords: food law and policy, agriculture law, farm bill, deliberative democracy, agriculture, localization, local food

Suggested Citation

Fink, Brian and Schluntz, Alexandra and Galperin, Joshua, Food Localization: Empowering Community Food Systems Through the Farm Bill (June 11, 2018). Journal of Food Law and Policy, Vol. 14, No. 1, 2018, U. of Pittsburgh Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2018-22, Available at SSRN:

Brian Fink

Yale University - Law School

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law ( email )

385 Charles E. Young Drive East
1242 Law Building
Los Angeles, CA 90095
United States

Alexandra Schluntz

Yale University - Law School ( email )

Joshua Galperin (Contact Author)

Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University ( email )

78 North Broadway
White Plains, NY 10603
United States

Do you want regular updates from SSRN on Twitter?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics