• Description

Eating is a fundamental human need, and the food and agriculture system is vital to the American economy. Yet, our food system often works at cross-purposes, providing abundance while creating inefficiencies, and imposing unnecessary burdens on our economy, environment, and overall health. Many federal policies, laws, and regulations guide and structure our food system. However, these laws are fragmented and sometimes inconsistent, hindering food system improvements. To promote a healthy, economically viable, equitable, and resilient food system, the United States needs a coordinated federal approach to food and agricultural law and policy – that is, a national food strategy.

A national food strategy has the potential to offer a comprehensive, coordinated path forward to improve the food system. Specifically, it could help leaders and members of the public understand how various aspects of food and agriculture connect and are interdependent. The process of developing a strategy could clarify where agencies and legislators currently undertake overlapping or conflicting activities. In addition, the process could provide opportunities for soliciting and incorporating public and stakeholder input. Ultimately, a national food strategy could harmonize law and policymaking around food and agriculture, providing a mechanism for legislators and agencies to establish, prioritize, and pursue common goals.

This report provides a roadmap for the process to develop a national food strategy. Consequently, it focuses primarily on process rather than policy, because an effective process is a critical foundation to any coordinated strategy. In developing this blueprint, this report examines several models, which collectively may chart a path for such a strategy. First, several nations have developed national food strategies that may inform American efforts. These countries generally have food system challenges similar to those in the United States – e.g., maintaining or improving the success and resilience of the food and agricultural sectors, ensuring access to healthy food, promoting sustainable food production, and harmonizing the work of numerous agencies. Their strategies also illustrate a range of methods that can be used to engage agencies, diverse stakeholders, and the general public in strategy creation.

The United States also serves as a model for this blueprint, as there are many domestic national strategies addressing a range of topics. This report explores select U.S. national strategies on diverse issues from the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic to environmental justice. These strategies serve to illustrate the legal and policy mechanisms employed by domestic efforts to address important and complex social issues in need of federal coordination. Regardless of the motivation, these domestic strategies share key components and characteristics, including utilizing an organizing authority, incorporating stakeholder and public engagement, enshrining goals in a written document, and ensuring periodic updating. These mechanisms demonstrate the capacity of the U.S. political system to address complex issues, and these key components provide a framework for the features that should structure a national food strategy.

Presently, our food system struggles to serve the needs and interests of all Americans. The piecemeal policy and regulatory framework pertaining to food and agriculture also fails to accomplish needed improvements. Yet, the United States possesses the tools needed to address this vital system. A comprehensive and coordinated federal approach to law and policymaking is critical to an economically viable, resilient, equitable and food secure future for America. To that end, this report identifies four major principles to guide the creation of a national food strategy in the United States. Each principle describes the findings supporting it and includes a set of recommendations to lay the foundation for an effective comprehensive national strategy.