If we want to fix our broken food system — a system that isn’t working for farmers, consumers or the environment — changing government policy is essential. In the U.S., policy set by Congress and implemented by government agencies deeply affects what, and how, food is produced and consumed. Most food system reformers have rightly zeroed in on the USDA and the 5-year farm bill as the main targets for change.
A new IATP paper by Maggie Gosselin identifies many other government agencies that also impact our food system. The report, “Beyond the USDA: How other government agencies can support a healthier, more sustainable food system,” analyzes more than a dozen federal agencies and their role in administering programs, grants and regulatory oversight that affect food. This agency-by-agency review covers food safety regulations, community economic and housing development, health education, food procurement, labor standards, trade negotiations and transportation infrastructure.
Currently, there is no integrated approach among government departments and agencies to address food-related issues. It’s not uncommon for the policies of one U.S. agency to undermine the work of another. The paper recommends that there be greater coordination among federal agencies and, as a start, that the USDA, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) convene an interdepartmental task force on food policy.