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Abstract

As the local food movement gains critical mass around the country, deep and important issues concerning food system policy arise. The modern American food system spans from agricultural production to food processing to food consumption, and finally, to health outcomes. The system’s components include economic, environmental, social, political, and scientific aspects that interact in ways that far outstrip any one discipline’s capacity to analyze and resolve problems. Additionally, the system is profoundly shaped by a complex architecture of laws and regulation. With much credit to the local and regional food movements, people have begun to question not only the current food system, but also the laws that support it. As this critique moves forward, people are asking what vision exists for the future of food at the local, state, and federal levels. Most New England states have begun this discussion by engaging in state and regional “good food” planning. This Essay analyzes how the New England states’ planning processes are envisioning revitalized local, state, and regional food systems. This Essay has five parts. First, it begins with examining compelling reasons for promoting more sustainable food systems based on national and global trends, and identifies strategies for promoting regional food systems approaches with a brief introduction to the major influences on the national and New England food system. Second, it describes the states’ planning efforts and their enabling legislation or source of authority. The Essay then introduces the New England Food Vision 2060 (the Vision), and emerging discussion of food system possibilities that models potential food production options for the region based on different food based scenarios. The Vision is not a plan or prescription for each state, but rather serves to generate critical thought regarding the direction and aspirations, for regional food systems. Likewise, given the goal to have ongoing updates of the Vision, this project will likewise be influenced by individual state plans and strategies. Thus, the Vision represents an opportunity for continuous dynamic interchange among those committed to designing and developing a New England food system Learning Action Network. By applying “collective impact” strategies to food system advancement, the network will be poised to advance regional food justice, food policy access, and system sustainability (i.e., good food). Next, the Essay analyzes the key policy challenges that are presented by a desire for a more self-sufficient regional food system, such as local ordinances, land use and zoning laws, institutional procurement policy, and food access issues, This section offers a brief overview of how the Federal commerce clause (including the dormant commerce clause), and compact clause influence the scope of local, state, and regional policy. Finally, the paper concludes by identifying how the Vision can assist in identifying legal issues that researchers and scholars should focus on when engaging in food system planning now and in the future. This interdisciplinary Essay challenges readers to think critically, and across traditional doctrinal and disciplinary barriers, about the possibilities for New England’s “good food” future.

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