Skip to Main Content

The Agrifood System Policy Agenda and Research Domain

Journal Title Journal of Rural Studies
Published Date October 24, 2015
Research Type
Authors Jill Clark


In the US, traditionally food policy has been considered a federal concern dealing with issues such as nutrition, anti-hunger, food safety, food labeling, international trade and food aid. In the 1970s, new concerns arose about the potentially deleterious consequences of the modern global food system. Social movement groups, often referred to as the Alternative Agrifood Movement, successfully championed these concerns into policy discussions, expanding the federal food policy frame to include the agrifood system agenda, while also creating new roles for local and state governments in food system governance. A body of agrifood system policy research emerged to address both the concerns and policies addressing modern global food system issues. The purpose of this paper is two-fold: first, to summarize the underpinnings of the agrifood system policy agenda, trace the emergence of initiatives in federal policy, and describe expressions in local policy; and, second, to describe the corresponding research domain, focusing on seminal works that inform or directly speak to policy development. Findings indicate that, as a whole, agrifood system policy research is interdisciplinary and draws from a core of knowledge. The most highly cited publications come from the fields of geography, sociology and rural sociology, environmental science and nutrition education, and follow a consistent trajectory of conceptualizing alternatives, providing friendly critique and proposing research agendas attentive to hybridity between conventional and alternative food systems. Research mostly informs framing and agenda-setting in the policy process and is aimed at all scales of governance, with a slight emphasis on local governance. Finally, we offer suggestions for further research, including evaluative research and comparative analysis with other domains of food policy research.

Clark, Jill K., Kristine Dugan and Jeff Sharp. 2015. “Agrifood System Policy Agenda and Research Domain.” Journal of Rural Studies. 42: 112-122.