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

Local Agriculture Market Program, 7 U.S.C. § 1627c
Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act, 7 U.S.C. § 1932(g)(9)
Local Food Production and Program Evaluation, 7 U.S.C. § 2204h
Farmer-to-Consumer Direct Marketing Act of 1976, 7 U.S.C. §§ 3001-3007
Micro-grants for food security, 7 U.S.C. §7518
Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1769(g)


Administrator, Rural Business-Cooperative Service, 7 C.F.R. § 2.48
Farmer-to-Consumer Direct Marketing, 7 C.F.R. § 249.8
Business and Industry Loans; Eligible borrowers, 7 C.F.R. § 4279.108(c)
Cooperative Agreements, 7 C.F.R. § 4285

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

Direct Farm Business Guides (National Ag Law Center & others, 2015)
AFRI- Legal Direct Marketing Business Guides (National AgLaw Center & U. IL. Urbana)
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, 2011)
General Legal Issues for Community Farmers Market Managers to Consider (Crocker, 2007)
The Farmers’ Legal Guide to Producer Marketing Associations (O’Brien, Hamilton & Leudemann, 2005)
Zoning Limitations and Opportunities for Farm Enterprise Diversification: Searching for New Meaning in Old Definitions (Branan, 2004)
Farmers’ Markets Rules, Regulations and Opportunities (Hamilton, 2002)

Congressional Research Service Reports

Reports– published and made available by CRS beginning in 2017

Subjects- published by CRS and made available by NALC until 2018:

Farm Bills/Economic Stimulus
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)

Evaluation of the USDA Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (2021)
Farmers Market Promotion Program
Federal State Marketing Improvement Program
How to Evaluate Economic Benefits of Local Food Systems Webinar
Livestock and Poultry Program
Local and Regional Food Market News
Local Food Directories: National Farmers Market Directory
Local Foods Research and Development
Local Foods Promotion Program
Local Foods Promotion Program Publication: Farmers Market Consortium Resource Guide (2007)
Opening a Farmers’ Market on Federal Property (2009)
Pavilions, Food Hubs and Community Kitchens – Designing for Local Food Systems
Regional Food System Partnerships
Specialty Crop Block Grant Program
Specialty Crops Marketing Orders and Agreements
Supporting Local & Regional Food Systems (2020)
The National Organic Program
Transportation Research & Analysis
USDA Farmers Market 2018 Rules and Procedures & Operating Guidelines (2019)
Why Local Food Matters: Views from the National Landscape

Agricultural Research Service (ARS)

Crop Production and Protection
Natural Resources and Sustainable Agricultural Systems

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)

Animal Health
Plant Health
Urban Chicken Flocks in Four U.S. Cities: the Human/Chicken Interface (2011)

Economic Research Service (ERS)

Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 Highlights: Local and Regional Foods
FoodAPS National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey: Geography Component
Local Foods
Publication: Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impacts and Issues (2010)
Publication: Organic Produce, Price Premiums, and Eco-Labeling in U.S. Farmers’ Markets
Publication: Trends in U.S. and Local Food Systems: Report to Congress (2015)
Sustainable Agricultural Systems Research

Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Questions & Answers: Raw Milk
National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS) Model Documents
Grade “A” pasteurized Milk Ordinance- 2017 Revision

Food and Nutrition Service (FNS)

10 Facts About Local Food in School Cafeterias (2019)
Community Food Systems
Community Food Systems Fact Sheets
Department of Defense Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Program
Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program
Farmers’ Markets Accepting SNAP Benefits
Finding, Buying and Serving Local Food
Procuring Local Foods
Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs (2015)
SNAP at Farmers Markets: a How-To Handbook
Summer Food Service Program: Using Local Foods and Related Activities
Selling Local Food to Schools (2017)
Using USDA DOD Fresh to Purchase Local Produce

National Agricultural Library (NAL)

Alternative Farming Systems Information Center
Alternative Farming Systems Marketing
Community Food Systems
Community Supported Agriculture
Consumer preference for locally grown produce: An analysis of willingness-to-pay and geographic scale
Local Foods
Local and Regional Food Systems
Sustainable Agriculture: Definitions and Terms

Congressional Resources

Food Loss and Waste: Building on Existing Federal Efforts Could Help to Achieve National Reduction Goal
U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee
U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Small Business

Other Federal Resources

Census of Agriculture
Local Food Marketing Practices
ommunity Food Projects Competitive Grant Program
Feasibility of insuring local food production – final research report (2021)

Additional Resources

Agriculture and Food Systems: search engine (Sustainable Communities online)
Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas – National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA-NCAT)
Community Food System Planning(Growing Food Connections)
Database of Local Public Policies that Support Community Food Systems (Growing Food Connections)
Farm to Table: Building Local and Regional Food Systems (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education)
Farmers Market Legal Toolkit (Center for Agriculture & Food Systems)
Food Policy Networks (Johns Hopkins Center for A Livable Future)
Introduction to Local Food Systems (U. MO Ext.)
Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, & Community Development
Knowledge Base Collection: Food Systems (American Planning Assoc.)
Landowner and Farmer Resources (Drake U. Ag. Law Ctr.)
Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture (IA St. U.)
Local and Regional Food Systems: Index of Initiatives and Resources (Cornell)
Local Food Systems: Clarifying Current Research (NC St. Ext.)
Local Harvest
Market Maker: Linking Agricultural and Seafood Markets
National Farm to School Network
North American Farmers’ Direct Marketing Association
The Economics of Local Food: an Emerging Community of Practice


A Guide to Illinois Laws Governing Farm Marketing (Schell, 2005)
A Review of Definitions of Community Food Systems (Edgar & Brown, 2013)
Activating the local food system in emergency food response (Ollove & Hamdi, 2021)
Before You Sign on the Dotted Line. . .Questions for Farmers to Ask Before Entering Into a Direct Marketing Agreement (FLAG, 2005)
Community Food Systems Bibliography- March 2013 Updates (UC Davis, Agriculture Sustainability Institute)
Community Food System Development Framework for Change (Perez et. al., 2016)
Direct Marketing (ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture, 2016)
Direct Sales to Local Grocery Stores and Restaurants (ATTRA news, 2012)
Economic Opportunity in Local Food Systems: Baselines and Targets  (Conner et. al. , 2011)
Establishing and Operating a Community Farmer’s Market (U. KY Ext.,1997)
Establishing Land Use Protections for Community Gardens (Public Health Law & Policy, 2009)
Establishing Land Use Protections for Farmers’ Markets (Public Health Law & Policy, 2009)
Exploring Food System Policy: A Survey of Food Policy Councils in the United States (Scherb et. al., 2012)
Farmers Market Development Manual (AL Farmers Market Authority, 2005)
Food Policy Councils and Local Governments: Creating Effective Collaboration for Food Systems Change (Gupta et. al., 2018)
Growing Local, Community Guide to Planning for Agriculture and Local Food Systems  (Freedgood and Fydenkevez, 2017)
Guide to Federal Funding for Local and Regional Food Systems (National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, 2010)
Increasing Local Procurement in Farm-to-School Programs: An Exploratory Investigation (Roche et. al., 2015)
Iowa Farmers’ Market Development Manual (IA Dept. of Ag., 2003)
Legal Guide to Farm-direct Marketing (Oregon State University Extension, 2016)
Local and Regional Food Systems (Campell & Feenstra, UC Davis)
Permits Allowing the Sale of Raw Milk for Human Consumption (PA Dept. Ag, 2016)
Planning for Food Access and Community-Based Food Systems (Hodgson, 2012)
Raw Milk Use and Safety Fact Sheet (Center for Rural Affairs, 2007)
Regulatory Guidance for Best Practices: Cottage Foods (Association of Food and Drug Officials, 2012)
The Economic, Social, and Environmental Impacts of Farmers Markets: Recent Evidence from the US (Warsaw et. al., 2021)
The Impact of COVID-19 on Local Government Stakeholder’s perspectives on Local Food Production (Campbell, 2021)
Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems: A Report to Congress (USDA, 2015)
Understanding Farmers’ Market Rules (Speir & Krueger, Farmers’ Legal Action Group, 2006)
Urban Farmers Markets as a Strategy to Increase Access to and Consumption of Fresh Vegetables Among SNAP and non-SNAP Participants: Results from an Evaluation (Woodruff et. al., 2018)
What Does Zoning Have to Do With Local Food Systems? (Haines, 2018)
Wisconsin Local Food Marketing Guide: A Producer’s Guide to Marketing Locally Grown Food (WI Dept. of Ag., 2014)

Recommended Publications & Readings (not freely available electronically)

Hinrichs & Lyson, Remaking the North American Food System: Strategies for Sustainability (U of Nebraska Press, 2007)

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).

Robyn Metcalfe, Food Routes: Growing Bananas in Iceland and Other Tales from the Logistics of Eating (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2019).