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Managing across boundaries for coordinated local and regional food system policy

Journal Title Food Policy
Published Date October 21, 2022
Research Topic
Research Type
Authors Jill Clark


As society experiences greater food- and agriculture-related crises, including those related to climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, it is necessary to rethink conventional silos of hierarchical government. Know Your Farmer Know Your Food (KYF2) was an ambitious collaborative interagency model to address local and regional food system (LRFS) development across a multitude of policies and programs. KYF2, as a public management strategy for implementing public policy, was associated with an investment of more than $1 billion through more than 40,000 LRFS initiatives. Our aim is to document and evaluate the extent to which KYF2 changed the way the USDA implements LRFS policy. Guided by public management, policy implementation, and collaboration literature, we use a mixed methods approach by: 1) conducting a document analysis to determine the internal implementation goals of KYF2, and 2) surveying USDA staff members involved in KYF2 and using statistical and network analysis of survey data to evaluate the evidence about whether KYF2 achieved internal goals. We find that KYF2 legitimized LRFS work within USDA agencies, changed and institutionalized the ways in which daily business is conducted, and elicited new cross-agency collaborations. KYF2, as a cross-boundary innovation, enabled the USDA to coordinate implementation of LRFS policies across 17 agencies, integrating LRFS department-wide and creating policy feedbacks that resulted in legislative change. The development and passage of public policy is often a focus for change, but this study suggests that management strategies to coordinate existing policies can also significantly impact the way in which governments engage in complex, multi-sector issues.