636 Food, Agriculture and the Environment: Law & Policy

“Food,” “agriculture,” and the “environment” are distinct American mythologies tied to our basic physical needs and imbued with significant cultural meanings. They are also deeply entwined. We all eat three or so times a day, and each of those meals arrived on our table at the very end of a dizzying journey through our national—and increasingly global—food and agriculture system. It’s a system that causes startling environmental harms; think water and air pollution, pesticides, greenhouse gases, non-human animal welfare, deforestation, soil depletion, wetlands destruction, fisheries collapse, and on and on. Yet notions of “agricultural exceptionalism” exempt agriculture from many of our nation’s environmental laws.

Undergirding the system are the people who help put food on our tables. The food and agriculture system depends on immigrants who toil in the field and on slaughterhouse lines even as it romanticizes the Jeffersonian ideal of the solitary yeoman. It co-opts the knowledge of Black, Indigenous and people of color under terms like “sustainable” and “regenerative” without reckoning with land theft, enslavement, or the patterns of discrimination and land loss that persist today.

This course will survey how law and policy created and perpetuate the interrelated social, economic and environmental iniquities of our modern food and agriculture system. More optimistically, we will study how law and policy can address systemic issues and move us toward values of equity and environmental justice, conservation, restoration, community health and economic sustainability. We will pay special attention to the federal farm bill, which is due for reauthorization in 2023.

Course format and expectations: Students will be expected to stay up on all readings, participate in weekly discussion boards, prepare several presentations and written assignments throughout the semester, and engage in the seminar each week. As a final assignment, each student will write a 10-15 page law or policy paper on a topic that they will develop in consultation with the rest of the class and the instructor. There will be an additional, optional opportunity to visit a local farm.

 

Course Areas of Practice
Evaluation Methods
  • Reflective Writing
  • Research and/or analytical paper(s), 10-15 pages
  • Oral presentation
  • Class participation
Degree Requirements
Course Type
  • Seminar
Learning Outcomes
  • Knowledge and understanding of substantive and procedural law
  • Legal analysis and reasoning, legal research, problem-solving, and written and oral communication in the legal context

Sample Syllabi

Fall 2022

2022
Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor Meeting Days/Times Room

636.01 2
  • Reflective Writing
  • Research and/or analytical paper(s), 10-15 pages
  • Oral presentation
  • Class participation
Lee Miller Tu 10:30 AM-12:20 PM 3000

“Food,” “agriculture,” and the “environment” are distinct American mythologies tied to our basic physical needs and imbued with significant cultural meanings. They are also deeply entwined. We all eat three or so times a day, and each of those meals arrived on our table at the very end of a dizzying journey through our national—and increasingly global—food and agriculture system. It’s a system that causes startling environmental harms; think water and air pollution, pesticides, greenhouse gases, non-human animal welfare, deforestation, soil depletion, wetlands destruction, fisheries collapse, and on and on. Yet notions of “agricultural exceptionalism” exempt agriculture from many of our nation’s environmental laws.

Undergirding the system are the people who help put food on our tables. The food and agriculture system depends on immigrants who toil in the field and on slaughterhouse lines even as it romanticizes the Jeffersonian ideal of the solitary yeoman. It co-opts the knowledge of Black, Indigenous and people of color under terms like “sustainable” and “regenerative” without reckoning with land theft, enslavement, or the patterns of discrimination and land loss that persist today.

This course will survey how law and policy created and perpetuate the interrelated social, economic and environmental iniquities of our modern food and agriculture system. More optimistically, we will study how law and policy can address systemic issues and move us toward values of equity and environmental justice, conservation, restoration, community health and economic sustainability. We will pay special attention to the federal farm bill, which is due for reauthorization in 2023.

Course format and expectations: Students will be expected to stay up on all readings, participate in weekly discussion boards, prepare several presentations and written assignments throughout the semester, and engage in the seminar each week. As a final assignment, each student will write a 10-15 page law or policy paper on a topic that they will develop in consultation with the rest of the class and the instructor. There will be an additional, optional opportunity to visit a local farm.

 

Pre/Co-requisites
None

Fall 2021

2021
Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor Meeting Days/Times Room

636.01 2
  • Reflective Writing
  • Research and/or analytical paper(s), 10-15 pages
  • Oral presentation
  • Class participation
Lee Miller Tu 10:30 AM-12:20 PM 4055

“Food,” “agriculture,” and the “environment” are distinct American mythologies tied to our most basic physical needs and imbued with our most significant cultural meanings. They are also irrevocably entwined. Most of us eat at least three times a day and, unless you are in extraordinary circumstances, those meals were produced within our national—and increasingly global—food and agriculture system. And it’s a system that causes startling environmental harms; think water and air pollution, pesticides, greenhouse gases, non-human animal welfare, deforestation, soil depletion, wetlands destruction, fisheries collapse, and on and on. Yet notions of “agricultural exceptionalism” exempt agriculture from many of our nation’s environmental laws.

Undergirding the system are the people who help put food on our tables. The food and agriculture system depends on immigrants who toil as farmworkers and work the slaughterhouse lines even as it romanticizes the Jeffersonian ideal of the solitary yeoman. It co-opts the knowledge of Black, Indigenous and people of color under terms like “sustainable” and “regenerative” without reckoning with land theft, enslavement, or the patterns of discrimination and land loss that persist today.

This course will survey how law and policy helped create and perpetuate the interrelated social, economic and environmental iniquities of our modern food and agriculture system. More optimistically, we will study how law and policy can address systemic issues and move us toward values of equity and environmental justice, conservation, restoration, community health and economic sustainability. And if you read Omnivore’s Dilemma and want to learn what the Farm Bill actually does, this is your chance.

Course format and expectations: Students will be expected to stay up on all readings, participate in weekly discussion boards, prepare several small presentations and written assignments throughout the semester, and engage in the seminar each week. As a final assignment, each student will write a 10-15 page law or policy paper on a topic that they will develop in consultation with the rest of the class and the instructor. There will be an additional, optional opportunity to visit a local farm.

 

Syllabus: 636.01.Fall2021-syllabus.docx46.23 KB

Pre/Co-requisites
None

Fall 2020

2020
Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor Meeting Days/Times Room

636.01 2
  • Reflective Writing
  • Research and/or analytical paper(s), 10-15 pages
  • Oral presentation
  • Class participation
Lee Miller Tu 10:30 AM-12:20 PM

“Food,” “agriculture,” and the “environment” are distinct American mythologies tied to our most basic physical needs and imbued with our most significant cultural meanings. They are also irrevocably entwined. Most of us eat at least three times a day and, unless you are in extraordinary circumstances, those meals were produced within our national—and increasingly global—food and agriculture system. And it’s a system that causes startling environmental harms; think water and air pollution, pesticides, greenhouse gases, non-human animal welfare, deforestation, soil depletion, wetlands destruction, fisheries collapse, and on and on. Yet notions of “agricultural exceptionalism” exempt agriculture from many of our nation’s environmental laws.

Undergirding the system are the people who help put food on our tables. The food and agriculture system depends on immigrants who toil as farmworkers and work the slaughterhouse lines even as it romanticizes the Jeffersonian ideal of the solitary yeoman. It co-opts the knowledge of Black, Indigenous and people of color under terms like “sustainable” and “regenerative” without reckoning with land theft, enslavement, or the patterns of discrimination and land loss that persist today.

This course will survey how law and policy helped create and perpetuate the interrelated social, economic and environmental iniquities of our modern food and agriculture system. More optimistically, we will study how law and policy can address systemic issues and move us toward values of equity and environmental justice, conservation, restoration, community health and economic sustainability. And if you read Omnivore’s Dilemma and want to learn what the Farm Bill actually does, this is your chance.

Course format and expectations: The course will take place entirely online. Students will be expected to stay up on all readings, participate in weekly discussion boards, prepare several small presentations and written assignments throughout the semester, and engage in the “live” seminar each week. As a final assignment, each student will write a 10-15 page law or policy paper on a topic that they will develop in consultation with the rest of the class and the instructor. For students in the Durham area, there will be an additional, optional opportunity to visit a local farm (University policy permitting).

 

Pre/Co-requisites
None

Fall 2019

2019
Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor Meeting Days/Times Room

636.01 2
  • Reflective Writing
  • Research and/or analytical paper(s), 10-15 pages
  • Oral presentation
  • Class participation
William Scott Tu 10:30-12:20 PM 4044

In many areas of the country, and especially in North Carolina, sustainable, local food markets represent one of the most exciting opportunities for environmental stewardship, economic growth, value-added agricultural niches, job creation, and community building. However, these opportunities require careful and sustained attention to the legal and regulatory requirements at the international, national, state, and local levels, many of which inhibit the development of sustainable, local food systems.

The course will focus on (1) the interrelationship of food and agricultural production and environmental sustainability and (2) the ways in which the law influences, and can be used to overcome impediments to, the development of sustainable, local foods-based markets. Students will explore readings from a variety of sources, hear directly from guest speakers from North Carolina's strong network of organizations involved in the local foods movement, and delve into a research project of their own choosing.* Through the semester, students will gain an understanding of how legal rules interact with food safety research, physical infrastructure, personal consumption habits, patterns of private sector investment, race-based and other structural inequalities, to notions of community, underlying cultural and religious values, etc.

*This project will allow students to explore an issue of interest and contribute their knowledge to this developing field. Papers may be scholarly in nature, but students are encouraged to shape their projects as practical case studies that directly engage the issues and players in the local foods community.

Pre/Co-requisites
None

Fall 2018

2018
Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor Meeting Days/Times Room

636.01 2
  • Reflective Writing
  • Research and/or analytical paper(s), 10-15 pages
  • Oral presentation
  • Class participation
William Scott Tu 10:30-12:20 PM 4172

In many areas of the country, and especially in North Carolina, sustainable, local food markets represent one of the most exciting opportunities for environmental stewardship, economic growth, value-added agricultural niches, job creation, and community building. However, these opportunities require careful and sustained attention to the legal and regulatory requirements at the international, national, state, and local levels, many of which inhibit the development of sustainable, local food systems.


The course will focus on (1) the interrelationship of food and agricultural production and environmental sustainability and (2) the ways in which the law influences, and can be used to overcome impediments to, the development of sustainable, local foods-based markets. Students will explore readings from a variety of sources, hear directly from guest speakers from North Carolina's strong network of organizations involved in the local foods movement, and delve into a research project of their own choosing.* Through the semester, students will gain an understanding of how legal rules interact with food safety research, physical infrastructure, personal consumption habits, patterns of private sector investment, race-based and other structural inequalities, to notions of community, underlying cultural and religious values, etc.

*This project will allow students to explore an issue of interest and contribute their knowledge to this developing field. Papers may be scholarly in nature, but students are encouraged to shape their projects as practical case studies that directly engage the issues and players in the local foods community.

Pre/Co-requisites
None

Fall 2017

2017
Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor Meeting Days/Times Room

636.01 2
  • Reflective Writing
  • Research and/or analytical paper(s), 10-15 pages
  • Oral presentation
  • Class participation
Michelle Benedict Nowlin Tu 10:30-12:20 PM 4172

In many areas of the country, and especially in North Carolina, sustainable, local food markets represent one of the most exciting opportunities for environmental stewardship, economic growth, value-added agricultural niches, job creation, and community building. However, these opportunities require careful and sustained attention to the legal and regulatory requirements at the international, national, state, and local levels, many of which inhibit the development of sustainable, local food systems.


The course will focus on (1) the interrelationship of food and agricultural production and environmental sustainability and (2) the ways in which the law influences, and can be used to overcome impediments to, the development of sustainable, local foods-based markets. Students will explore readings from a variety of sources, hear directly from guest speakers from North Carolina's strong network of organizations involved in the local foods movement, and delve into a research project of their own choosing.* Through the semester, students will gain an understanding of how legal rules interact with food safety research, physical infrastructure, personal consumption habits, patterns of private sector investment, race-based and other structural inequalities, to notions of community, underlying cultural and religious values, etc.

*This project will allow students to explore an issue of interest and contribute their knowledge to this developing field. Papers may be scholarly in nature, but students are encouraged to shape their projects as practical case studies that directly engage the issues and players in the local foods community.

Pre/Co-requisites
None

Fall 2016

2016
Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor Meeting Days/Times Room

636.01 2
  • Research and/or analytical paper(s), 10-15 pages
  • Reflective Writing
  • Oral presentation
  • Class participation
Michelle Benedict Nowlin Tu 10:30-12:20 PM 4172

In many areas of the country, and especially in North Carolina, sustainable, local food markets represent one of the most exciting opportunities for environmental stewardship, economic growth, value-added agricultural niches, job creation, and community building. However, these opportunities require careful and sustained attention to the legal and regulatory requirements at the international, national, state, and local levels, many of which inhibit the development of sustainable, local food systems.


The course will focus on (1) the interrelationship of food and agricultural production and environmental sustainability and (2) the ways in which the law influences, and can be used to overcome impediments to, the development of sustainable, local foods-based markets. Students will explore readings from a variety of sources, hear directly from guest speakers from North Carolina's strong network of organizations involved in the local foods movement, and delve into a research project of their own choosing.* Through the semester, students will gain an understanding of how legal rules interact with food safety research, physical infrastructure, personal consumption habits, patterns of private sector investment, race-based and other structural inequalities, to notions of community, underlying cultural and religious values, etc.

*This project will allow students to explore an issue of interest and contribute their knowledge to this developing field. Papers may be scholarly in nature, but students are encouraged to shape their projects as practical case studies that directly engage the issues and players in the local foods community.

Pre/Co-requisites
None

*Please note that this information is for planning purposes only, and should not be relied upon for the schedule for a given semester. Faculty leaves and sabbaticals, as well as other curriculum considerations, will sometimes affect when a course may be offered.