The Food and Agriculture Clinic equips students with practical legal skills and an opportunity to engage in food system law and policymaking.
Student clinicians work with VLS faculty and local, regional, and national partners to research, develop, and disseminate legal resources for food system stakeholders, including farmers and food enterprises, farmworkers, administrators, legislators, and advocates. Through a range of projects, student clinicians explore substantive law and policy issues in the field of food and agriculture, while applying and refining their legal research and writing skills and developing communication, project management, and leadership skills.
We are unique. Only a handful of law clinics nationwide are exclusively dedicated to food and agricultural law and policy. Distinctively, our clinic develops legal resources addressing:
- Farmland access and stewardship;
- Food and farm business organization and structure;
- Food security;
- Labor laws;
- Animal welfare;
- Public health;
- Local/regional food system development; and
- Compliance with complex federal and state laws.
Recent clinic projects include:
FARM TO INSTITUTION POLICY PROJECT
The Food & Agriculture Clinic collaborated with staff, researchers, and the policy workgroup at Farm to Institution New England (FINE) to produce policy snapshots for each New England state that provide analysis of key state procurement policy trends, accomplishments, and gaps, as well as recommendations for strengthening state procurement policy to advance local food purchasing by state institutions. The accompanying report, Regional Trends in New England Farm to Institution Procurement Policy, builds on the snapshots’ key findings.
Extension Legal Services Initiative
CAFS has partnered with University of Vermont Extension and the Northeast Center to Advance Food Safety to develop the Extension Legal Services Initiative (ELSI), which responds to the need for farmers and food producers to receive answers to legal questions that arise in the course of their operations. ELSI currently focuses on questions around compliance with the federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which is being implemented gradually for different sizes of farms and food businesses. Food and Agriculture Clinic students presented on their work to date in a webinar in May 2019, and will produce a series of fact sheets addressing the most common legal questions associated with FSMA compliance by the project's conclusion in late 2020.
State Farm to School Policy Handbook
The Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) partners with the National Farm to School Network (NFSN) to produce this annual resource. The most recent version, the State Farm to School Policy Handbook: 2002-2018, is a tool for those working to advance the farm to school movement. The Handbook summarizes and analyzes bills and resolutions introduced between January 1, 2002, and December 31, 2018, from the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories. It enables users to search bills by both jurisdiction and topic. The Handbook provides: analysis of and infographics detailing state farm to school legislative trends; summaries of proposed bills since 2002, whether enacted, defeated, or pending; case studies on successful farm to school advocacy efforts in Hawai‘i, Michigan, New Mexico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Vermont; and additional resources for advocates and policymakers to support state farm to school policies.
The State Farm to School Policy Handbook: 2002-2018 builds on a survey that was originally released in 2011, updated in 2013, 2014, and 2017, and was previously called the State Farm to School Legislative Survey.
Farmers Market Legal Toolkit
Funded by a four-year USDA NIFA grant, we collaborated with the Northeast Organic Farming Association of VT and the national Farmers Market Coalition to create a Farmers Market Legal Toolkit designed to help farmers market leaders nationwide identify and navigate key legal issues that arise in starting and operating farmers markets, including governance (business entity selection), accepting SNAP/EBT benefits, and risk management. This project aims to support the growth of local food systems by providing legal resources to build resilient and accessible farmers markets.
Farmland Access Legal Toolkit
With USDA NAL support, we collaborated with BCM Environmental & Land Law, PLLC and Heyman Legal to create and disseminate a Farmland Access Legal Toolkit designed to help farmers understand the legal architecture of affordable and equitable farmland access arrangements, and to help landowners balance earning needed retirement income with making their land affordable to the next generation of farmers. This project aims to support equitable land transfer and access for all farmers.
Housing and Employment Rights for Vermont Dairy Workers
This project, funded by NAL and the Vermont Community Foundation, provided educational resources for farmworkers related to housing and employment law. CAFS created a report assessing federal employment and housing laws relevant to farmworkers, and partnered with Migrant Justice to develop an accompanying handbook—available in both English and Spanish—for workers on Vermont dairy farms.
To learn more, please contact Clinic Director Sophia Kruszewski at firstname.lastname@example.org.