Updating My Recent Food Law & Policy Work

Since moving to Seattle earlier this year, I've continued my longtime focus on scholarly research and writing, popular-press writing, and public speaking in the area of Food Law & Policy.

Last month, for example, I was honored to take part in a faculty workshop at the University of Colorado Law School in Boulder. At the invitation-only workshop, food-law faculty and other scholars from around the country presented works in progress to fellow faculty. I discussed a draft of my article on the historical origins of food freedom, which I trace back to colonial America and which I tie to language in both the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights. The Academy of Food Law & Policy, where I serve as a founding board member, sponsored a fun mixer during the workshop.

In addition to my food-freedom research, I’m currently working on an article on the law of foraging--which I also focused on in my book, Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable. I’ll present that working paper in September at a Vermont Law School faculty colloquium. While I've been working on scholarly writings and reviewing those of others at workshops, I’ve also served as an invited peer reviewer for several scholarly publications, most recently for the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and the Journal of Law, Medicine, & Ethics.

I've also kept up a busy speaking schedule, with recent talks in Hawaii, Oregon, and elsewhere. I've also made several appearances in the media. These include appearances on NPR’s Kojo Nnamdi Show and on popular radio shows in Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, Seattle, and elsewhere around the country.

In addition to regular speaking appearances, I've also taken my writing to new venues. The New Food Economy, an award-winning, long-form food-policy website, published an excerpt from my book in May. That was followed by the publication of two original pieces I wrote for the website, both of which expanded on topic areas I covered in my book. The first New Food Economy piece focused on a massive 2014 recall of tainted meat that was spurred by a combination of inane USDA slaughterhouse regulations and incompetent USDA oversight. My second piece for the New Food Economy, published just last week, focuses on fatal flaws within the USDA’s dairy checkoff program. In addition to these and other articles, I continue to write a weekly online column for Reason, where I recently celebrated my fifth anniversary as a regular columnist. In one recent column, I detailed the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals' hearing of Idaho's appeal in the so-called "ag gag" case, which I attended in Seattle last month. Readers may recall that I helped organize an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs, who rightly challenged the Idaho law as violative of their First Amendment rights.

Finally, on a more personal note, I'm thrilled to have received word last week that I've been awarded a garden plot in the Troll's Noll, a small community garden in the city's Fremont neighborhood. The garden is located around the corner from the famed Fremont Troll, and a short walk from my home. While it's late in the planting season, the plot already contains a gorgeous blueberry bush, to which I hope to add tomatoes, herbs, and hot peppers!

Big Win in 11th Circuit Skim-Milk Case in Which I Served as an Expert

Last week the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned an earlier U.S. District Court ruling and handed a well-deserved victory to Ocheesee Creamery, the plaintiff in a First Amendment lawsuit against Florida's agriculture department. Ocheesee was represented in the case by the Institute for Justice.

As I detailed in my book, Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable, I'm proud to have served as an expert witness in the case on behalf of Ocheesee, which was told by the state of Florida that they could not label their 100% natural skim milk as "skim milk" unless they added vitamin A to the milk. The state had suggested Ocheesee use bizarre and Orwellian terms to label their skim milk, including "Non-Grade 'A' Milk Product, Natural Milk Vitamins Removed" or "imitation skim milk." The 11th Circuit, reflecting points I made in my expert report, made clear that consumers are not confused by accurate food labels, such as when skim milk is labeled as "skim milk."

"The appeals court win this week is an important victory not just for Ocheesee Creamery but also for free speech, consumers, small businesses, and food freedom," I wrote in my latest weekly Reason column, which focuses on the Ocheesee victory.

What's next for the case? I'm waiting to see if Florida appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court and whether the nation's highest court agrees to take up the case.



Updates on Service, Speaking, & Writing

It's been a while since I updated this blog. This is due in large part to my recent move across the country from the Washington, DC area to Seattle. Here's some recent news on my professional service, speaking, and writing.

Service - I'm pleased to announce that I recently joined the board of directors of the nonprofit Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. The FTCLDF defends the rights of family farms and protects consumer access to raw milk.

Speaking - In January, I delivered a talk on food safety regulations in Maui, Hawaii. The talk was sponsored by the Grassroot Institute. The next day, I gave a book talk at the University of Hawaii Law School in Oahu. The law school's Federalist Society student chapter sponsored the talk. Earlier this week, I gave a book talk at the University of Oregon Law School. The talk was co-sponsored by the law school's Federalist Society and American Constitution Society student chapters.

Writing - I recently published an op-ed in the Sacramento Bee on an excellent California bill that could lift many restrictions on food sales by home cooks. I also continue to pen a weekly column for Reason magazine's website, as I've done for the past five years.

'Biting the Hands that Feed Us' Named One of Civil Eats' 'Favorite Food and Farm Books of 2016'

I'm thrilled that my book Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable has been named one of Civil Eats' "Favorite Food and Farm Books of 2016."

Biting the Hands That Feed Us
By Baylen Linnekin
Laws and regulations are designed to help us, right? When it comes to building a sustainable food movement, that may not always be true. In this provocative book, lawyer Baylen Linnekin makes a case for why U.S. food policy might benefit from a “less is more” approach. He shares examples of how laws have created unnecessary food waste, prevented residents from growing food in home gardens, and overburdened small producers and growers with regulations requiring them to use pricey equipment—instead of less expensive methods that would achieve similar outcomes. Linnekin leaves the reader with guiding principles of how we can transform food policy in a direction that promotes—not inhibits—sustainability.
— Kristine Wong

Biting the Hands that Feed Us has also won plaudits from Whole Foods' CEO John Mackey and "beyond organic" farmer and author Joel Salatin, authors Nina Teicholz and Michele Simon, publications like Huffington Post, Politico, Reason, Men’s Journal, and Acres U.S.A., and book reviewers at Booklist and Foreword. Check out what they've said about Biting the Hands that Feed Us here! And pick up a copy of the book (makes for a terrific holiday gift!) here.

Biting the Hands that Feed Us: Media & Speaking Updates

I've had a whirlwind month of national and local media and public speaking appearances to promote my book, Biting the Hands that Feed Us, which currently sits at #7 on Amazon's list of top-selling Environmental Law books.

Last month I had book talks and signings in Iowa and North Carolina, took part in a book webinar hosted by the Security & Sustainability Forum, and took part in a book talk and signing at Washington, DC's leading bookseller, Politics & Prose. You can watch my Politics & Prose book talk here.

Media coverage of the book has only increased in recent weeks. Here are some highlights:

On the academic front, I've also recently given talks at UCLA's Luskin Center and at law schools in Vermont, Maine, and Minnesota. Tomorrow, I'll travel to North Carolina for a book talk and signing at Wake Forest University's Pro Humanitate Institute and serve as a guest lecturer in a Food Law & Policy classroom at Wake University Law School. Other upcoming talks include stops in Hawaii and Oregon.

You can keep up with my speaking appearances here. To schedule a media appearance or book talk, please contact me here.