Making the Case for a National Food Strategy in the United States

Laurie J. Beyranevand and Emily M. Broad Leib


Over the past century, the United States’ food system has transformed considerably, while laws and policies have struggled to keep pace. On the one hand, these facts are neither unique nor surprising. The development of law and policy is often incremental, lagging behind growth and technological advances. Yet, on the other hand, this problem is particularly acute with regard to law and policymaking related to the food system given its reach. Where the United States was once a primarily agrarian society, in which farmers produced food on small, diversified farms that employed nearly half the country’s labor force, America has since transitioned to a highly industrialized nation. Presently, only a small percentage of the American population is engaged with food production. Farms are larger, increasingly specialized, and under highly concentrated ownership. Technological advances in food production and distribution, coupled with consumer demand for constant and consistent access to diverse food products, have globalized the food system creating long and complex supply chains. In adapting to this highly industrialized system, however, law and policymaking has largely failed to account for other major social priorities, including public health, and environmental and economic sustainability. While all Americans are impacted by the food system, and many stakeholders hold strong opinions about food system issues, there is no clear, identifiable point of entry for participation in food and agricultural law and policymaking.