Book Review, Anniversary, Speaking Appearances & More

My book Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable, just celebrated the one-year anniversary of its publication. I've been overwhelmed by the critical acclaim the book has received, and from the warm words about the book that many of you--friends, scholars, food-policy experts, farmers, food producers, and others--have shared with me since the book's publication.

Book critics have also had wonderful things to say about the book. For example, a very positive recent review published by Kirkus Reviews, which bills itself as providing "the most authoritative book reviews, recommendations and author interviews in publishing," calls Biting the Hands that Feed Us "a provocative critique of current food policy from a libertarian perspective." You can read praise from critics at Politico, Huffington Post, Booklist, Foreword, Reason, Men's Journal, Civil Eats, Acres U.S.A., the Midwest Book Review, and more here

Next month, I'll be giving a book talk at St. John's University Law School in New York City, and speaking as part of Fordham University Law School's annual Cooper-Walsh Colloquium. This year's colloquium is titled "Taking a Bite Out of the Big Apple: A Conversation About Urban Food Policy." I'll also travel to rural Wisconsin for the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund board meeting, the first in-person meeting since I joined the board last year. In November, I'll travel to UCLA Law School to serve as a guest faculty member at the 3rd Annual Student Food Law Summit. And this spring I'll be giving a book talk at University of Michigan Law School (date TBD).

As the summer turns to autumn, I hope your horizon appears as busy and bright as my own!

Find Me Writing, Speaking, and Gleaning

I'm pleased to provide an update here on some of my recent and ongoing work.

My latest piece for the New Food Economy was published today. In the lengthy article--which runs around 4,000 words--I describe details of a fascinating recall of potentially hazardous egg rolls last year, explain the role previously unreported FDA and USDA bickering played in the recall, and describe the complex and confusing overlap of agency regulatory authority. I'm very happy with the piece, which I think really pops thanks to documents I obtained through a FOIA request I filed with the USDA in November. I also continue to write weekly for Reason. Please check out my columns here.

On the speaking front, my fall calendar is also quite busy already. I'll be conducting a book talk and webinar for Northwestern University Alumni Association on Sept. 28. I'm a proud alum of Northwestern's School of Education and Social Policy (MA '01). In October, I'll be in Wisconsin for the annual meeting of the board of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, where I'm a board member. I'll then travel to New York City, where I'll first give a book talk at St. John's University Law School (Oct. 19) and then discuss an article I'm writing about foraging as part of Fordham Urban Law Journal's annual Cooper-Walsh Colloquium (Oct. 20). The following week, I'll deliver a book in Seattle to a group of home economists, Euthenics of the Greater Seattle Area. And in November I'll again take part (for the third year in a row) as a guest faculty member at the annual Food Law Student Leadership Summit. This year's summit is hosted by UCLA Law School.

Finally, I'm thrilled to report on some volunteer work I've done in recent months with a terrific Seattle nonprofit, FareStart. I serve as a Food Recovery Ambassador and Food Recovery Committee member with FareStart as they work to expand their outreach to farmers and food hubs in service of reducing food waste, combating food insecurity, and training culinary professionals. Additionally, I take part in FareStart’s volunteer gleaning efforts. I've had the good fortune to reach out to farms and food hubs about recovering excess food, helped to plan FareStart's food-recovery efforts, and visited farms outside Seattle to pick excess produce. I've already helped glean nearly 200 lbs. of blueberries that FareStart has turned into food its budding culinary professionals serve to Seattleites in need.

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.