commerce clause, federal law, state and local law, Farm Bill, agribusiness, antitrust regulation, marketing, federalism, public health, economic health, food system reform

Document Type



Why is the relationship between our food system and federalism important to American law and health? It is important simply because federal law controls the American food system. This essay considers how federal law came to structure our food system, and suggests that though food is an essential part of our national economy, the dominating role of the federal government alienates citizens from their food system. It does so by characterizing food as a primarily economic issue, rather than one that has ethical, health, and cultural components. However, state and local governments have much to offer in terms of broadening the scope of food system considerations. This essay first provides a simplified overview of American food system influences. It also touches on the major legal principals affecting the system. Finally, it highlights three examples of how to include local, state, and regional voices in food system reforms. These examples are: the food system indicator tool, farm to school programs, and food policy councils. These solutions illustrate that the best food system reforms require the exercise of federal, state, and local powers in ways that maximize the individual's ability to influence and participate in the food system.