Pace Food Law Center

Pace Food Law Center header

The Pace Food Law Center at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law supports legal services and advocacy, academic scholarship, and student learning.

Legal Services and Advocacy: Our legal services and advocacy projects support the transition to a just and sustainable food system. We focus our work on supporting food sovereignty for historically disadvantaged communities, fostering alternative models of food production and distribution, and promoting regenerative climate-friendly agriculture. We provide direct legal services to farmers and food businesses, offer focused legal training, and advocate for systemic policy changes at the local, state, regional, and federal levels. In service of this mission, the Pace Food Law Center works to provide direct transactional legal services to food revolutionaries, build the capacity of the legal community to work on food system issues, and advance transformative, systemic policy change.

Scholarship: The Pace Food Law Center supports the development of food law scholarship, seeking to advance understanding of the role of law in shaping the food system. The Elisabeth Haub School of Law is home to the largest food law faculty in the country. We produce cutting-edge research on everything from public procurement systems, to the right to food, to the treatment of animals in the food system, to domestic food system governance, and more. Our faculty have published work in leading journals and other academic outlets around the world.

Student Learning: Our students engage in food law through the Clinic, other food law coursework, independent research projects, and externships. The Pace Food Law Center supports student work by supervising research, offering career counseling, and assisting student-led initiatives such as the campus garden.


The Food Law Center was founded in 2015 as the Pace-NRDC Food Law Initiative, a partnership between the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Identifying the need for transactional legal services expressed by food, beverage, and agricultural clients, NRDC played a key role in developing the Clinic and the Food Law Center’s other programming. The Clinic launched in 2017 with generous support from Constellation Brands and the Sands Family Foundation. In 2022, after receiving support from New York State to expand access to Clinic services, the Pace-NRDC Food Law Initiative was reorganized as the Pace Food Law Center. We continue to work closely with NRDC to further regional food system goals.

Learn more about NRDC's Regional Food work

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Legal Services and Advocacy

The Pace Food Law Center supports the transition to a just and sustainable food system. We address the unmet legal needs of farmers, food and beverage entrepreneurs, and nonprofit organizations to strengthen food sovereignty in disadvantaged communities, foster the growth of alternative models of food production and distribution, and promote the emergence of a more sustainable climate-friendly food system. The Pace Food Law Center offers direct legal services through its Food and Farm Business Law Clinic at the Haub School of Law, helping our clients navigate a complicated legal landscape governing all aspects of their work -- from land management to legal entity structuring to accessing markets. The Center also hosts trainings on key food law issues for lawyers and food and farm businesses and educates the next generation of food system lawyers.  And, drawing on this work, we advance policies that aim to remove systemic barriers to success and help bring about a just and sustainable food system.

Strengthening Food SovereigntyFood is a central component of physical and economic health, but many communities, particularly communities of color, are shut out from ownership of farms and food businesses and from access to affordable healthy foods. The Pace Food Law Center works in support of businesses and nonprofit organizations seeking to mitigate the effects of centuries of discrimination through expanding opportunities for people of color-owned farm and food businesses.

Fostering Alternative Models of Food Production and DistributionOver the last century, economic and political power in the food system has become increasingly concentrated. This concentration reduces diversity of ownership and of scale in food production. By supporting the creation of alternative economic and other models for ownership of food production, processing, distribution, and retail businesses, Pace Food Law Center supports the redistribution of food system resources. We see this work as a critical tool for economic development and empowerment in both rural and urban communities.

Promoting the Emergence of a Sustainable, Climate-Friendly Food SystemThe food system in the United States is responsible for over 20% of the US’s greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, food production and supply chains are extremely susceptible to climate disruptions. The Pace Food Law Center supports transitions to climate-friendly food production and distribution.

In service of our mission, the Pace Food Law Center works to provide direct transactional legal services to food revolutionaries, build the capacity of the legal community to work on food system issues, and advance transformative, systemic policy change.

Food and Farm Business Law Clinic—The Food and Farm Business Law Clinic (formerly the Food and Beverage Law Clinic) provides pro bono transactional legal services to small farm businesses, artisan food manufacturers, craft beverage entrepreneurs, and related nonprofit organizations. Under faculty supervision, law students in the Clinic represent clients in connection with forming and structuring businesses, cooperatives, and nonprofits; drafting and negotiating legal agreements, including leases, operating agreements, and other commercial contracts; advising on regulatory matters, including related to food regulation and land use regulation; and seeking trademark protection, among other areas of practice. By providing pro bono legal representation to its clients, the Clinic seeks to facilitate the development of a more just and sustainable regional food system and economy. At the same time, by teaching fundamental lawyering skills and professionalism through hands-on legal work and client interaction, the Clinic seeks to transform law students into practice-ready professionals.

The Clinic was launched in 2017 with the generous support of the Sands Family Foundation and Constellation Brands. The Clinic is the first in the country entirely dedicated to providing direct, transactional legal services to food, beverage, and agricultural clients. The Clinic is a part of John Jay Legal Services, Inc., a non-profit legal services organization housed at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University.

Legal Community Capacity BuildingThe Pace Food Law Center conducts legal training programs on key issues affecting the food, beverage, and agriculture sectors. These programs provide farmers and food and beverage business owners with the tools they need to manage legal issues on their own and to know when to seek attorney assistance, and they train attorneys who can incorporate these areas into their practices. We also train the next generation of food systems law attorneys through student participation in the clinic and by offering other substantive food law courses to Pace Law students. Previously, the Center offered a term-time for-credit externship placement with the NRDC’s New York team. Students in this placement worked with staff attorneys on legal research in support of current and developing food policy campaigns, with projects including research on soil health initiatives and farm-to-school procurement, among others.

Policy ChangeUnderstanding that food system reform requires both on-the-ground innovation and systemic policy change, the Pace Food Law Center collaborates with a variety of partners to bring lessons and priorities from Clinic clients and other partners to campaigns for transformative policy change at the city, state and federal level. Partners include the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Farm Bill Law Enterprise. Most recently, several Pace Food Law Center Faculty, including Jonathan Brown, Josh Galperin, and Margot Pollans, contributed to the Farm Bill Law Enterprise’s 2023 Farm Bill Reports. Numerous Pace Law students also worked on this project.

Faculty & Student Scholarship

Faculty Scholarship

Jonathan H. Brown, Professor of Law for Designated Project or Service, Director of Food and Beverage Law Clinic

  • Nurturing a More Just and Sustainable Food System: The First Year of Pace Law’s Food and Beverage Law Clinic, Natural Resources & Environment (quarterly publication of the ABA Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources) (July 2018).
  • Beyond Corporate Form; A Response to Dan DePasquale’s, Surbhi Sarang’s and Natalie Vena’s Forging Food Justice through Cooperatives in New York City, Fordham Urb. L.J. (2018).

Margot J.  Pollans, Professor of Law, Faculty Director of Pace Food Law Center, Shamik and Adrienne Trivedi Faculty Scholar

  • Bodies as Food System Sacrifice Zones, in Research Handbook on International Food Law (Michael Roberts ed. Forthcoming 2023).
  • Eaters, Powerless by Design, 120 Mich. L. Rev. 643 (2022).
  • FDA as Food System Steward, 46 Harv. Envtl. L. Rev. 1 (2022) (with Matthew Watson).
  • Oped, “Everything Wrong With Our Food System Has Been Made Worse by Coronovirus,” Los Angeles Times, May 4, 2020.
  • The New Food Safety, 107 Calif. L. Rev. 1173 (2019) (with Emily Broad Leib).
  • Drinking Water Protection and Agricultural Exceptionalism, 77 Ohio St. L.J. 1195 (2016).
  • Food Law and Policy: Cases and Materials (Wolters Kluwer 2018) (with Jacob Gersen & Michael Roberts).
  • Food Systems, in CLIMATE CHANGE, PUBLIC HEALTH, AND THE LAW (Michael Berger & Justin Gundlach, eds., Cambridge University Press, 2018).
  • Ecolabeling, in OXFORD HANDBOOK OF COMPARATIVE ENVIRONMENTAL LAW (Emma Lees & Jorge E. Viñuales eds., 2019) (with Jason Czarnezki & Sarah Main).

Jason J.  Czarnezki, Gilbert and Sarah Kerlin Distinguished Professor of Environmental Law, Associate Dean and Executive Director of Environmental Law Programs 

  • Food, Agriculture, Environmental Law (with Mary Jane Angelo and William S. Eubanks) (Environmental Law Institute Press 2013) 
  • Eco-Labelling (with Margot Pollans and Sarah Main) in Oxford Handbook on Comparative Environmental Law (Oxford University Press 2019)
  • Informational and Structural Changes for a Sustainable Food System in From Farm-to-Fork (Akron Press 2016) 
  • Life Cycle Costing and Food Systems: Concepts, Trends, and Challenges of Impact Valuation (with Katherine Fiedler and Steven Lord), 8 Michigan Journal of Environmental and Administrative Law 1 (2018) 
  • Crafting Next Generation Eco-Label Policy in Environmental Law (with Katrina Fischer Kuh & K. Ingemar Jönsson), 48 Environmental Law 409 (2018) 
  • New York City Rules! Regulatory Models for Environmental and Public Health, 66 Hastings Law Journal 1621 (2015)
  • Creating Order Amidst Food Eco-Label Chaos (with Andrew Homan and Meghan Jeans), 25 Duke Environmental Law and Policy Forum 281 (2015) 
  • Greenwashing and Self-Declared Seafood Eco-labels (with Andrew Homan and Meghan Jeans), 28 Tulane Environmental Law Journal 37 (2014) 
  • Global Environmental Law: Food Safety & China (with Cameron Field and Yanmei Lin), 25 Georgetown International Environmental Law Review 261 (2013), reprinted in Miljörättsliga Perspectiv och Tankevändor 141 (Sweden 2013) 
  • Food Court, 30 The Environmental Law Forum 32 (2013) 
  • Food, Law & the Environment: Informational and Structural Changes for a Sustainable Food System, 31 Utah Environmental Law Review 263 (2011)
  • The Future of Food Eco-Labeling: Organic, Carbon Footprint, and Environmental Life-Cycle Analysis, 30 Stanford Environmental Law Journal 3 (2011) 
  • It’s Time for the FDA to Define ‘Natural’ (with Paul Greenberg), Time (May 4, 2016) 
  • Are Food Imports from China Safe?, VTDigger (November 11, 2011) 
  • Genetically Engineered Salmon Needn't Be Mystery Meat for Consumers (with Emily Montgomery), HuffPost Green (July 22, 2011) 
  • Supreme Court Reviews Genetically Modified Crops (with Holli Brown), Vermont Law Top 10 Environmental Watch List 2011 

Smita Narula, Haub Distinguished Professor of International Law and Co-Director of the Global Center for Environmental Legal Studies

  • Confronting State Violence: Lessons from India’s Farmer Protests, Columbia Human Rights Law Review (forthcoming 2022).
  • Peasants’ Rights and Food Systems Governance, in The United Nations Declaration on Peasants’ Rights (Mariagrazia Alabrese, Adriana Bessa, Margherita Brunori, Pier Filippo Giuggioli, eds., Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2022).
  • Achieving Zero Hunger Using a Rights-based Approach to Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture, in Fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals: On a Quest for a Sustainable World (Narinder Kakar, Vesselin Popovski, & Nicholas Robinson, eds., Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2021)
  • “An Alternative to Industrial Agriculture,” Frankfurter Rundschau, Nov. 19, 2018 (with Hilal Elver and Marc Edelman) (published in German).

Josh Galperin, Assistant Professor of Law

  • Can we love invasive species to death?, forthcoming, (book chapter) (with Sara E. Kuebbing and Martin Nunez)
  • The Death of Administrative Democracy, 82 U. Pitt. L. Rev. 1 (2020) (article)
  • The Life of Administrative Democracy, 108 Georgetown L. J. 1213 (2020) (article)
  • Food Localization: Empowering Community Food Systems Through the Farm Bill, 14 J. Food L. & Pol’y 8 (2018) (with Brian Albert Fink & Alexandra Oakley Schluntz) (article)
  • No Farms No Food?: A Response to Baylen Linnekin, 45 Fordham Urb. L.J. 1141 (2018) (invited symposium response)
  • Diversified Agricultural Economies (report of the Farm Bill Law Enterprise) (Mar. 2018) (with Emily Broad Leib, Alyssa Chan, D. Lee Miller, Annika Nielsen, Alexandra Oakley Schluntz, Michelle Nowlin, Emily Spiegel, and Nathan A. Rosenberg)
  • Value Hypocrisy and Policy Sincerity: A Food Law Case Study, 42 Vt. L. Rev. 345 (2018) (article)
  • Eating Is Not Political Action, 13 J. Food L. & Pol’y 113 (2017) (invited essay) (with Graham Downey, & Lee Miller) (essay)
  • Resilience and Raisins: Partial Takings and Coastal Climate Change Adaptation, 46 Env. L. Rep. 10123 (2016) (with Zaheer Hadi Tajani) (edited and condensed article adaptation)
  • Raisins and Resilience: Elaborating Horne’s Compensation Analysis with an Eye Towards Coastal Climate Change Adaptation, 35 Stan. Envtl. L.J. 3 (2016) (article)
  • Eating Invaders: Managing Biological Invasions with a Fork and Knife? 28-FALL Nat. Resources & Env't 41 (2013) (with Sara E. Kuebbing) (essay)
  • Book review, Jackson Landers: Eating Aliens. One Man’s Adventures Hunting Invasive Animal Species, Biol. Invasions 15:5 (May 2013) (with Sara E. Kuebbing and Martin Nunez) (book review)


Student Scholarship

Andie D’Angelo, Class of 2022

  • Taking the Whole Hog: How North Carolina’s Right-to-Farm Act Strips Access to Nuisance Suits for Vulnerable Communities, 34 Geo. Envtl. L. Rev. 141 (2022).

Matthew Watson, Class of 2021

  • FDA as Food System Steward, 46 Harv. Envtl. L. Rev. 1 (2022) (with Margot Pollans).

Stephanie Sioufas, Class of 2022

  • Eco-Labels and Sustainable Viticulture to Avoid Environmental Impacts, Environmental Claims Journal, 34:3 (2022).

Faculty and Staff

Faculty Director
Professor Margot Pollans, Faculty Director and Professor of Law. Her work focuses on understanding the underlying structures of US food law, taking a critical lens to food safety law, regulation of international food trade, and environmental regulation of food production.

Director, Food and Farm Business Law Clinic
Jonathan Brown joined the team as the Director of the Food and Farm Business Law Clinic (formerly the Food and Beverage Law Clinic) in October 2016. Prior to joining Haub Law, he was a legal fellow and clinical lecturer in law at Yale Law School’s Community and Economic Development Clinic, and prior to that he was an associate at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP.      

Staff Attorney, Food and Farm Business Law Clinic
Jack Hornickel joined the Food and Farm Business Law Clinic in 2021. He previously represented small farmers and provided business planning services through the GrowNYC Farmer Assistance Program, supporting farmers selling in the Greenmarket, the largest network of urban farmers market in the country.   

Food Law Program Coordinator
Camden Smithtro joined the Food Law Center & the Food and Farm Business Law Clinic in 2022. Camden joins Pace Law after graduating from Yale University with a BA in Environmental Studies. At Yale she worked extensively for the Yale Sustainable Food Program and developed an interest in food and agriculture.

Affiliated Faculty

Barbara Atwell is an Associate Professor of Law and Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.  She writes and teaches in the areas of public health and bioethics and has written several articles on public health measures related to obesity and sugar regulation.

David Cassuto, Professor of Law and Director of the Brazil-American Institute for Law and Environment.  He has written extensively about food law with a particular emphasis on the environmental and ethical implications of factory farming.

Jason Czarnezki, Gilbert and Sarah Kerlin Distinguished Professor of Environmental Law and Associate Dean & Executive Director of Environmental Law Programs at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University. His research focuses on food eco-labeling and life-cycle analysis, green public procurement, and global food security.  He is also an Honorary Research Associate at Oxford University's Environmental Change Institute, where he is part of a research team modeling global food systems and supply chains.

Melanie Dupuis, Chair of the Department of Environmental Studies and Science, Dyson College of Arts and Sciences at Pace University. Her research focuses on sustainable governance, political agroecology, and the politics of foods.  Her most recent book is Dangerous Digestion: The Politics of American Dietary Advice (This was published in 2015) Since then she has co-authored a book, Food Across Borders).

Josh Galperin, Assistant Professor of Law. His research and teaching cover environmental law, administrative law, food and agriculture law and policy, property, constitutional law, and tort law. In the area of food and agriculture law and policy, he has focused particularly where agriculture and food law intersect with environmental policy and administrative law doctrine and invasive species management, especially efforts to “eat the invaders.”

Smita Narula, Haub Distinguished Professor of International Law and Co-Director of the Global Center for Environmental Legal Studies. She has written extensively on the right to food and on the political economy of our food system.  From 2008 to 2014, she served as legal advisor to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. Her current research focuses on the environmental impacts of the industrial food chain and on developments in international law to advance food sovereignty and protect peasants’ rights.

Resources for Law Students


Nick SioufasNick Sioufas, Class of 2019  Excelsior Fellow at New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (2019 interview)

Why did you choose Pace Law?
There are two reasons I chose Pace Law. First, my doctor recommended I go to law school­­—specifically, Pace Law’s environmental program. Second, I investigated my doctor’s advice to discover that Pace recently launched the Pace-NRDC Food Law Initiative, along with the Food and Beverage Law Clinic. After learning more about the Initiative and Clinic, I realized Pace Law was the perfect place to explore my interest in agriculture and America’s food system. 

How did you pursue your interest in food and agriculture law at Pace? / What was your experience participating in Pace’s food law offerings?
I pursued my interest in food and agriculture law from the start at Pace Law. First, the 1L and other doctrinal courses both taught the nuances of our American legal system and offered a micro-level glance at the history that is the backdrop of our American food system. Both results prepared me to take advantage of Pace’s numerous upper-level offerings. This included: Taking an array of environmental, land use, food / agriculture, administrative and business law courses; Joining the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic and the Food and Beverage Law Clinic; Participating in skills-oriented, extra-curriculars, such as, the corporate externship program and the Haub-Pace Center for Environmental Legal Studies’ IUCN-World Conservation Congress 2020 team.

What was your experience in the Food and Beverage Law Clinic like?
The Food and Beverage Law Clinic allowed me to apply and grow my lawyering skills while counseling clients that inspire and promote local food systems.  With the Clinic, I gained confidence in my ability to engage a client, understand their needs and direct a value-added solution. The Clinic was an incredibly valuable experience as a young law student learning the practice of transactional law.

Tell us about the job you are starting after graduating from Pace Law:
Fall, 2019, I began a two-year Excelsior Service Fellowship with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (DAM). Specifically, I respond to complaints and requests for assistance under the NY State Constitution’s Right to Farm Law, and various ordinance provisions, such as Agriculture and Markets Law 305. Also, I assist with regulatory proposals, Article 78 defense proceedings, department bill drafting, and appellate court briefs and oral arguments. Lastly, I represent DAM at multi-departmental hearings and meetings with local governments. All told, each day I build on what I learned at Pace Law to serve the people of New York State.

Tell us about the vegetable garden you started on Pace Law’s campus:
April 2019, fellow students, faculty members and I started a new campus garden in front of the E-House at Pace Law. The garden is meant to highlight the fact that healthy, tasty food can be grown locally­—even on a school or home lawn. The school already had a small, and mostly hidden, garden. However, I found the sunny and inviting E-House front lawn to be an ideal spot for a campus garden. I am grateful that many others on campus agreed. Therefore, on April 11, 2019, faculty and students came together to break ground on a new organic garden. This past summer, we maintained three beds that grew vegetables, herbs, fruits and flowers. From our harvests, fresh food donations were made to Hope Kitchen and Trinity-St. Paul Church through the grow! Lincoln Park Community Garden­—all located in New Rochelle, NY. This Fall, we will plant cover crops and several perennials, such as rose bushes and a fruit tree.

Sarah VaileSarah Vaile,  Class of 2007 Attorney at Farm Commons (2019 interview)

When did your interest in food and agriculture begin?
I grew up in Indiana – the Heartland. Farm country. However, I had no connection to “real” food. My family ate frozen corn and peas out of a can. The food all around us – corn and soybeans – was destined for food processing plants.

Ironically, I had to go away from the Midwest to discover real food. In my 20s, I spent time in England and went to my first farmer’s market. I was astonished to learn about things like arugula and aubergine, and that these delicacies were grown by farmers in the surrounding countryside. England was going through the GMO debate at that time, so when shopping I paid a lot of attention and started asking questions. 

When I returned to the U.S., I landed in Minneapolis. With an interest in “real” food, I worked in one of the city’s many food co-ops. I attended a book reading on The Farm as Natural Habitat and the Sierra Club was there with its “Keep Pigs Off Drugs” campaign. I approached the person at the table and said, “I want to do what you do.” That was my eventual friend Kendra, who declared that she was going to go to law school to fight factory farms. That sounded great to me, so I joined her mission. I started at Pace Law in 2004. 

How did you pursue this interest while at Pace Law School?
While at Pace, I did everything to learn about law relating to agriculture. There was no Food & Beverage Law Clinic back then, but I took advantage of every opportunity in the food and farm world. On the environmental law track, I took classes in the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, etc. – and did the Environmental Law Review and the Environmental Litigation Clinic. I wrote a research paper on the Monarch butterfly and the impacts of pesticides causing its decline. I went on a field trip to Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture and wrote my law review article on regulating Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) under the Clean Air Act. 

Tell us about your job at Farm Commons:
I joined Farm Commons in August 2018. Up until then I had spent most of my career (since graduating in 2007) working as a lawyer, but not in areas relating to food and farming. I did a clerkship, I worked as a public defender, and I spent the last six years or so practicing family law, estate planning and business law. I had always stayed involved in the food and farming world, mostly through my board service for farm organizations where I live in Oregon. However, the time came to get squarely back into the food and farm world. So, the same day I ended my job at the law firm, I saw an email from Farm Commons that they were hiring attorneys! I reached out to the executive director and I am happy to say she hired me!

Farm Commons is a non-profit organization focused on increasing the legal resiliency of small-scale, sustainable farms. These farms are the most vulnerable to legal risk, as they don’t have the capacity to hire lawyers to advise them on liability insurance options, explain how zoning may impact their venture, and counsel them on employment law. Farm Commons fills this gap by providing legal education, for free, to farmers and farm service providers. We do this through written publications, podcasts, website webinars and videos, and in-person workshops. As Staff Attorney, I am involved in all aspects of the work from researching and writing legal memos, to developing curriculum, to delivering the workshops. 

How did your time at Pace prepare you for your career?
My career has spanned a wide variety of work – from traditional “lawyering” such as courtroom litigation and transactional work to non-legal positions including being an organizer for a small non-profit organization. While all of these positions are so varied, they all have one thing in common: communication. Throughout my career, particularly now at Farm Commons, my work has always involved taking complicated legal and technical information and making it accessible to the “non-lawyer.” Pace really taught me how to do that. I learned not only how to read and digest complicated information – through all that reading of caselaw and statutes – but also how to explain it to others – though just about everything else I did at Pace – in study groups, writing assignments, oral argument. I don’t know of many other skills that are more important in our modern world.