books

I'll Discuss My Book, Class-Action Food Lawsuits in Trio of Midwest Law-School Appearances Next Month

Fresh off a talk earlier this month at the University of Washington Law School, where I discussed my critically acclaimed book Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable, I’ll be spending several days on the road next month to speak at three of the Midwest’s best law schools.

On March 5, I’ll give a book talk at the University of Missouri Law School in Columbia. Later in the month, on March 28, I’ll give another book talk, this one at University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor. Both talks are sponsored by the law schools’ respective Federalist Society chapters.

In the middle of the month, on March 16, I’ll take part in what’s sure to be a fascinating symposium put on by the Loyola Consumer Law Review at Loyola University Law School in Chicago. The symposium, "A Classless Act: Have Class Actions Lost Their Effectiveness as a Consumer Protection Tool?", focuses on the abuse and diminishing effectiveness of class-action lawsuits.

I’ll sit on a mid-day panel, "Class Actions That Give Bad Names: A Look at What Some Call Frivolous Litigation," alongisde Loyola Law School Prof. Jim Morsch. My talk will focus on class-action litigation targeting food makers, including suits targeting Wrigley and Subway. Later on, I’ll contribute an article which expands on my remarks to the Consumer Law Review’s 2018 Symposium Issue.

I’m grateful for these invitations to speak to and with law students and faculty members next month!

I'm Quoted in Great N.Y. Times Front-Page Piece on Regulations Impacting Small Apple Farmers

Earlier this week, the front page of the New York Times featured a thoughtful, well-researched article on ways that many regulations impact smaller food producers. That topic is at the heart of much of my research and writing, including my recent book, Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable.

The great Times piece, by staff investigative reporter Steve Eder, focuses specifically on rules impacting small apple growers. It also quotes me at length. Here's a snip:

“So many of the farmers I’ve spoken with tell me that stricter and stricter regulations have put many of their neighbors and friends out of business, and in doing so cost them their homes, land and livelihoods,” said Baylen Linnekin, a libertarian-leaning expert in food law and policy, in an email. “For many farmers, rolling back regulations is the only way they can survive.”

[...]

Mr. Linnekin, the food lawyer and author of “Biting the Hands That Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable,” predicted the new requirements would not lead to significant improvements in food safety.

“Instead, the result will likely be more of what we’ve experienced over the past few decades as regulations have ratcheted up,” he said. “More of our fruits and vegetables will be grown by large domestic producers who can afford to comply with the regulations — at the expense of smaller competitors — and by produce farmers abroad.”

I encourage you to click through and read the whole article. It's a balanced, refreshing look by the mainstream media at the issue of overregulation of food production and sales at a time when many politicians in Washington, D.C. at least claim to be taking a hard look at the problem.

In case you're long on time and short on things to read as the calendar turns to 2018, this week also saw publication of my latest op-ed, this one a look at a multi-state lawsuit against California over the latter's ban on some out-of-state eggs, which appears in the Orange County Register and several other leading Southern California newspapers.

Food Safety News Gives 'Biting the Hands that Feed Us' Thumbs Up

Food Safety News, the leading U.S. food-safety website, founded by Seattle food-safety litigator extraordinaire Bill Marler, has a nice writeup on me and my book, Biting the Hands that Feed Us. Here's an excerpt from the piece, written by Food Safety News editor Dan Flynn:

In the book, Linnekin can be blunt. He says FDA rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act “threaten to treat small farmers like manure and to treat manure–the lifeblood of organic fertilization and sustainable farming–as a toxin.”

Linnekin looks at how FDA threatened the livelihoods of “artisanal cheesemakers and beer brewers of all sizes” and barred people “from using sustainable methods to grow, raise, produce, prepare, sell and buy a variety of foods.”

As you may have guessed, “sustainability” is the prime directive for Linnekin. It’s on my list words in danger of becoming meaningless for its overuse by the lazy, but Professor Linnekin is precise in his choice of words. For Linnekin, whether a rule or regulation is helping or hurting sustainability is a crucial metric for measuring its effectiveness.

Linnekin does not blow off food safety. He says some rules are “necessary and desirable,” but he does question “blind faith” in rule makers.

Though Food Safety News (a website Flynn notes I've previously contributed to) generally speaks out in favor of more stringent regulations than I support--Marler, who I quote in Biting the Hands that Feed Us, does the same--it's clear from Flynn's words that he respects the measured approach I take in the book. Flynn is careful to note that Food Safety News doesn't "do" book reviews. If they did, though, he's also clear he'd recommend reading Biting the Hands that Feed Us.

"I’d say it a fascinating read, but that would sound like a book review," Flynn concludes.

Quite a good non-book-review review of my book, I'd say! If you haven't picked up the "fascinating read" that's currently Amazon's #1 Best-Selling book in the Environmental & Natural Resources Law category, what are you waiting for?

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!

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.