Local Food Systems



The term “food system” refers to the interconnected processes that connect the complex spectrum of food production to food processing, consumption, and ultimately disposal. One specific definition provides that the food system “includes all processes involved in keeping us fed: growing, harvesting, processing (or transforming or changing), packaging, transporting, marketing, consuming and disposing of food and food packages.” (Cornell University). The food system in the United States is predominantly characterized as a complex and globally integrated system in which products are routinely produced, processed, and hundreds and thousands of miles from the point of consumption. “Local Food Systems”, as used here, is meant to denote the fact that there are a number of interrelated pieces that connect to make “local food” a component of the U.S. agricultural food system. The term “community food system” is sometimes used interchangeably with the term “local food system.” Read the full overview

Note: Recently added resources are posted at the top of the applicable sections.

Major Statutes

Agricultural Act of 2014 (Farm Bill), Pub L. 113-79

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables for School and Service Institutions, H.R. 2642 § 4201

Department of Defense Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program, H.R. 2642 § 4202

Healthy Food Financing Initiative, H.R. 2642 § 4206

Food Insecurity and Nutrition Incentive, H.R. 2642 § 4208

Use of SNAP Benefits for CSAs, H.R. 2642 § 4012

2014 Farm Bill: Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, 7 U.S.C. § 1621

Food Stamp Act of 1977, 7 U.S.C. §§ 2011 – 2036

Assistance for Community Food Projects (Competitive Grants Program) (CFPCGP), 7 U.S.C. § 2034

Simplified Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, 7 U.S.C. §§ 2035

Farmer-to-Consumer Direct Marketing Act of 1976, 7 U.S.C. §§ 3001 – 3007

Farmers’ Market Promotion Program, 7 U.S.C. § 3005

Seniors Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, 7 U.S.C. § 3007

Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946, 7 U.S.C. §§ 1621 – 1632

Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1751 – 1769

Child Nutrition Act of 1966, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1771-1793

School Breakfast Program, 42 U.S.C. § 1773

Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, 42 U.S.C. § 1786


2014 Farm Bill: Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, 7 C.F.R. Part 1291

Nondiscrimination in Federally-Assisted Programs of the Department of Agriculture -Effectuation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 7 C.F.R. §§ 15.1 – 15.12

Food Stamp and Food Distribution Program, 7 C.F.R. §§ 271- 283, 285

General Information and Definitions, 7 C.F.R. Part 271

Requirements for Participating State Agencies, 7 C.F.R. Part 272

Certification of Eligible Households, 7 C.F.R. Part 273

Issuance and Use of Coupons, 7 C.F.R. Part 274

Participation of Retail Food Stores, Wholesale Food Concerns and Insured Financial Institutions, 7 C.F.R. Part 278

Administrative and Judicial Review – Food Retailers and Food Wholesalers, 7 C.F.R. Part 279

Administration of the Food Stamp Program on Indian Reservations, 7 C.F.R. Part 281

Appeals of Quality Control (“QC”) Claims, 7 C.F.R. Part 283

Provision of a Nutrition Assistance Grant for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, 7 C.F.R. Part 285

Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP), 50 C.F.R. § 261, 7 C.F.R. §§ 31, 32, 36, 37, 42, 50-54, 56, 58, 59, 70, 94, 300, 592, 868, 1250, 4285 — Note: All of the relevant regulations for the FSMIP are listed directly above and can be accessed via the link provided. The most relevant FSMIP regulations are provided below

Procedures by Which the Agricultural Marketing Service Develops, Revises, Suspends, or Terminates Voluntary Official Grade Standards, 7 C.F.R. Part 36

Program to Assess Organic Certifying Agencies, 7 C.F.R. Part 37

Fresh Fruits, Vegetables and Other Products (Inspection, Certification, and Standards), 7 C.F.R. Part 51

Processed Fruits and Vegetables, Processed Products Thereof, and Certain Other Processed Food Products, 7 C.F.R. Part 52

Egg Research and Promotion, 7 C.F.R. Part 1250

Cooperative Agreements, 7 C.F.R. Part 4285

Agency Mission and Organization, 9 C.F.R. 300

Child Nutrition Programs, 7 C.F.R. Parts 210-249

National School Lunch Program, 7 C.F.R. Part 210

School Breakfast Program (SBP), 7 C.F.R. Part 215

Special Milk Program for Children, 7 C.F.R. Part 220

Summer Food Service Program, 7 C.F.R. Part 225

Child and Adult Care Food Program, 7 C.F.R. Part 226

Nutrition Education and Training Program, 7 C.F.R. Part 227

State Administrative Expense Funds, 7 C.F.R. Part 235

Cash in Lieu of Donated Foods, 7 C.F.R. Part 240

Determining Eligibility for Free and Reduced Price Meals and Free Milk in Schools, 7 C.F.R. Part 245

Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, 7 C.F.R. Part 246

Commodity Supplemental Food Program, 7 C.F.R. Part 247

WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP), 7 C.F.R. Part 248

Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP), 7 C.F.R. Part 249

Donation of Foods for Use in the United States, Its Territories and Possessions and Areas Under Its Jurisdiction, 7 C.F.R. Part 250

Food Distribution Programs on Indian Reservations, 7 C.F.R. Part 250.65

Case Law

Case Law Index for Local Food Systems

Administrative Law Decisions

Office of the Administrative Law Judges

Center published USDA Judicial Officer’s Decisions

Center Research Publications

State-Specific Direct Marketing Business Guides (National AgLaw Center & U. IL @Urbana)

Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act Factsheet (Pittman, 2012)

Food Safety and Specialty Crops (R. Rumley)

Food Labeling for Specialty Crop Producers (E. Rumley, 2012)

Agricultural Contracting (R. Rumley)

3rd Party Food Safety Audits (Seideman and Rainey, 2012)

Legal and Business Guide for Specialty Crop Producers (National AgLaw Center & U. AR Division of Agriculture)

Federal Regulation of Organic Food: A Research Guide for Legal Practitioners and Food Industry Professionals (Jillian)

The Farmers’ Legal Guide to Producer Marketing Associations (O’Brien, Hamilton & Leudemann)

A Legal Guide to the National Organic Program (Pittman)

Farmers’ Markets Rules, Regulations and Opportunities (Hamilton)

Zoning Limitations and Opportunities for Farm Enterprise Diversification (Branan)

General Legal Issues for Community Farmers Market Managers to Consider (Crocker)

Congressional Research Service Reports

CRS Subject(s):

Farm Bills

Food Security/Aid


Sustainable and Organic Farming

Agricultural Law Bibliography

Introduction   |   Keyword Search   |   Browse Categories

Legal publications on Local Food Systems:

Corporate Farming (Restrictions on Corporate Farming/Family Farm Preservation)

Food and Drug Law

Hunger and Food Security Issues

Hunting, Recreation and Wildlife

Sustainable and Organic Farming


Reference Resources

Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)

Farmers Markets and Local Food Marketing

Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP)

Farmers Market Directory (USDA)

Farmers Market Growth (USDA)

Farmers Market Fact Sheet (USDA)

Publication: Having Fun at Your Local Farmers Market

2014 Farm Bill: Specialty Crop Block Program Grants

2014 Farm Bill: Department of Defense Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Program

Publication: Farmers Market Consortium Resource Guide

Dairy Program

Fruit and Vegetable Programs

Fresh Product Grading and Quality Certification: Fresh Produce Audit Verification System

Livestock and Seed Program

Farmers Market Promotion Program

The National Organic Program

Federal State Marketing Improvement Program

Publication: How to Establish a Farmers’ Market on Federal Property

Transportation Research & Analysis

Publication: How Local Farmers and School Food Service Buyers Are Building Alliances (2000)

Agricultural Research Service (ARS)

National Research Program: Natural Resources and Sustainable Agricultural Systems

Animal Health

Plant Health

National Research Program: Crop Production and Protection

Economic Research Service (ERS)

Local Foods

Publication: Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impacts and Issues (Martinez et. al., 2010)

Publication: The National School Lunch Program Background, Trends, and Issues (2008)

Briefing Room: Child Nutrition Programs

Briefing Room: Dairy Briefing Room: Farm and Commodity Policy

Briefing Room: Food and Nutrition Assistance

Briefing Room: Food and Nutrition Assistance Research

Briefing Room: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Briefing Room: Land Use, Value, and Management

Briefing Room: Organic Agriculture

Topic: Vegetables & Pulses

Briefing Room: The WIC Program

Publication: Exploring Alternative Farm Definitions: Implications for Agricultural Statistics and Program Eligibility (O’Donoghue et al., 2009)

Publication: Organic Produce, Price Premiums, and Eco-Labeling in U.S. Farmers’ Markets

Food and Drug Administration

Questions & Answers: Raw Milk

National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS) Model Documents

Food and Nutrition Service

WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamp Program)

Supplemental Nutrition Program: Farmer’s Markets EBT Projects

National School Lunch Program

School Breakfast Program

Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program

Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)

Regulations & Policies – State Inspection and Cooperative Agreements

National Agricultural Library

Alternative Marketing and Business Practices

Alternative Farming Systems Information Center

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

CSA Resources for Farmers

Alternative Farming Systems Information Center

Food and Nutrition Information Center

Guide to Organic Market, Industry and Consumer Studies

Farm to School: A Selected and Annotate Bibliography

Organically Produced Foods: Food Safety Issues

Sustainable Agriculture: Definitions and Terms

Guide to Organic Marketing and Trade How-to Publications

Guide to Organic Marketing and Trade Periodicals, Calendars and Trade Shows


National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)

Animal & Plant Biosecurity

Agricultural Systems

Animal Health and Production and Animal Products


Risk Management Agency (RMA)

State Profiles

Rural Development

Other Federal Resources

Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food (USDA)

Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE)

Western Region SARE

Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas – National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service ATTRA-NCAT)


Database of Local Public Policies that Support Community Food Systems (Growing Food Connections)

Farmers Markets as a Strategy to Improve Access to Healthy Food for Low-Income Families and Communities (Project for Public Spaces)

Farmers Market Economic Impact Study (Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship)

Planning for Food Access and Community-Based Food Systems (Hodgson, 2012)

Economic Opportunities in Local Food Systems: Baselines and Targets (Center for Rural Studies)

Guide to Federal Funding for Local and Regional Food Systems (National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, 2010)

Regulatory Guidance for Best Practices: Cottage Foods (Association of Food and Drug Officials, 2012)

Establishing Land Use Protections for Farmers’ Markets (Public Health Law & Policy, 2009)

Establishing Land Use Protections for Community Gardens (Public Health Law & Policy, 2010)

Wisconsin Local Food Marketing Guide: A Producer’s Guide to Marketing Locally Grown Food (WI Dept. of Ag., 2008)

Raw Milk Use and Safety Fact Sheet (Center for Rural Affairs, 5/07)

Future Issues in Agricultural Law and Rural Practice (FLAG CLE seminar, 2006)

Understanding Farmers’ Market Rules (Speir & Krueger, Farmers’ Legal Action Group, 2006)

Farmers Market Development Manual (AL Farmers Market Authority, 2005)

A Guide to Illinois Laws Governing Farm Marketing (Schell, 2005)

Before You Sign on the Dotted Line. . .Questions for Farmers to Ask Before Entering Into a Direct Marketing Agreement (FLAG, 2005)

Iowa Farmers’ Market Development Manual (IA Dept. of Ag., 2003)

Selling to Institutions: An Iowa Farmer’s Guide (Luedeman & Hamilton, Drake University Agricultural Law Center, 2003)

Selling Directly to Restaurants and Retailers (Feenstra et al., UC SAREP, 2003)

Marketing for the Value-Added Agricultural Enterprise (U. TN Ext., Center for Profitable Agriculture, 2002)

Legal Structure Rules & Regulations For Direct Marketing Enterprises (U. AZ Cooperative Ext., 1995)

Establishing and Operating a Community Farmers’ Market (U. KY Ext., 1992)

Additional Resources

What’s Happening With Raw Milk- State by State Updates (www.realmilk.com)

Market Maker: Linking Agricultural Markets

Interactive Map of Food Policy Councils

Local Food Systems Posts (Ag & Food Law Blog)

Food Policy Councils (Agriculture & Public Health Gateway, Johns Hopkins Cntr for a Livable Future)

Establishing and Operating a Community Farmer’s Market (U. KY Ext.)

Farm and Food Legal Resources (VT Law School)

National Farm to School Online

Farm to School (Oklahoma)

Permits Allowing the Sale of Raw Milk for Human Consumption (PA Dept. Ag Guidance Doc.)


Local Harvest

Valley Food & Farm

North American Farmers’ Direct Marketing Association

Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture

Good Agricultural Practices Network for Education and Training (GAPsNET)

W.K. Kellogg Foundation: Food Systems and Rural Development

Recommended Publications & Readings 
 (not freely available electronically)

Brian Halweil, Eat Here: Reclaiming Homegrown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket (W.W. Norton & Company, 2004)

Neil D. Hamilton, The Legal Guide for Direct Farm Marketing, (Drake University, 1999).

Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (The Penguin Press, 2006).