Pace-NRDC Food Law Initiative

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About Us

The Pace-NRDC Food Law Initiative (FLI) addresses the unmet legal service needs of farmers, food and beverage entrepreneurs, and nonprofit organizations seeking to improve our food system. To implement innovative practices, these ‘food revolutionaries’ must navigate a complicated legal landscape governing all aspects of their work from land management to food labeling to legal entity structuring. Access to legal services is vital to empower this transition to a more just and sustainable food system. FLI offers direct legal services through its Food & Beverage Law Clinic, provides trainings on key food law issues to food and farm businesses, and educates the next generation of food system lawyers. Founded in 2015, FLI is a partnership between the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University (Pace Law) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The Initiative has developed a variety of educational programming focused on concrete legal issues arising in the work of food justice organizations, farmers, and food entrepreneurs. The Initiative’s programs include an externship program, placing a Pace student with the NRDC’s regional food team and an annual lecture series focusing on critical food law topics. 

Learn more about NRDC's Regional Food work

2017 Highlights

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Who We Are

Faculty Director FLI Staff

Professor Margot Pollans, Faculty Director and Assistant Professor of Law. Her work focuses on identifying regulatory strategies for reducing the environmental externalities of the food system, and she is coauthoring a Food Law casebook.

Director, Transactional Food and Beverage Law Clinic

Jonathan Brown joined the team as the Director of the Transactional Food and Beverage Law Clinic in October 2016. He was most recently a clinical lecturer in law at Yale Law School, and prior to that an associate at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP, in New York. He received his B.A from the University of Pennsylvania, and his J.D. from New York University School of Law.      

NRDC Partners NRDC Logo

Mark Izeman is the New York Regional Director and a Senior Attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).  Over his 30-year career, he has spearheaded numerous environmental campaigns, litigation efforts, and strategic initiatives on regional food, fossil fuels, recycling, drinking water and other issues.

Jennifer Grossman is a senior legal advisor at NRDC, with twenty-five years of strategic environmental legal work in the public, not-for­ profit and private sectors, focusing now on food law, forging collaborative platforms between rural and urban communities, and supporting the economic viability of local agriculture through policy and programming.   

Margaret Brown is a staff attorney in the New York Program at NRDC, where she advocates for more just and sustainable food systems in New York and other regions around the country. 


Affiliated Faculty Elisabeth Haub Environmental Law Logo Pace

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.

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.

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.  

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.

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.

The Food Law Initiative's COVID-19 Legal Support Project


The COVID-19 pandemic continues to test our food systems in many ways and our Food Law Initiative wants to ensure that we are available during these difficult times to support the legal needs of New York State’s farmers and food, beverage, and agricultural businesses. 

In response to this unprecedented situation, our Pace-NRDC Food Law Initiative launched the COVID-19 Legal Support Project to provide pro bono legal services by the Food and Beverage Law Clinic at Elisabeth Haub School of Law and by attorneys at Shearman & Sterling LLP to new and existing clients affected by this crisis who cannot afford market-rate legal services. We may seek to make referrals to other sources of legal assistance where needed. To qualify for pro bono legal representation, businesses must meet the Clinic’s income eligibility criteria (for a for-profit business, the household income of the business’s owner(s) cannot exceed 400% of the federal poverty level).

This initiative aims to assist the essential businesses that support our local food system as they navigate the growing number of federal, state, and private relief programs, face legal challenges including the need to renegotiate leases or other contracts, and change their business models to adjust to this new environment. We are all learning and reacting in real time, and hope to adapt our response to the needs of our clients as they arise. 

To request legal assistance or for additional information, you can contact the Food Law Initiative's COVID-19 Legal Support Project via email here.

Many organizations also remain committed to providing valuable updated tools and resources to support individuals and businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic. The following links are a few that are particularly relevant for farms and food businesses in New York: 

News, Press & Publications

Things by us

Press releases

Press coverage

Recent Faculty Publications:
Jonathan H. Brown

  • 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. (June 2018).

Margot J.  Pollans

  • The New Food Safety, Cal.  L. Rev. forthcoming August 2019 (with Emily Broad Leib).
  • Food Law and Policy: Cases and Materials (Wolters Kluwer Forthcoming September 2018) (with Jacob Gersen & Michael Roberts).
  • Food Systems, Climate Change and Public Health Law (Cambridge University Press) (June 2018).
  • Ecolabeling, Oxford Handbook on Comparative Environmental Law (forthcoming 2018) (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 

  • Ecolabeling, Oxford Handbook on Comparative Environmental Law (forthcoming 2018) (with Margot Pollans & Sarah Main).

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

  • “An Alternative to Industrial Agriculture,” Frankfurter Rundschau, Nov. 19, 2018 (with Hilal Elver and Marc Edelman) (published in German).



2019 Events

  • On January 23, 2019, Professor Smita Narula presented "Food Sovereignty as a Path to Environmental Justice", at the Lloyd K. Garrison Lecture on Environmental Law, Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University. 
  • On January 31, 2019, Professor  Jonathan Brown spoke at the Glynwood Beginning Farmer Program, in Cold Spring, NY. 
  • On January 20, 2019, Professor  Jonathan Brown presented at Legal Advice for Farm Businesses, NOFA-NY Winter Conference.
  • On February 15-16, 2019, Professor Smita Narula presented "Being in Community with the Global Struggle for Food Sovereignty", Keynote Address, at the Yale Food System Symposium, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. 
  • On February 18-22, 2019, Professor Smita Narula spoke at the Food Futures Roundtable: "How do we build a more sustainable and just food future?" Food for Law Week, McGill Faculty of Law. 
  • In March 2019, Professor Smita Narula presented "How Will We Eat in the Anthropocene Era of the Sixth Extinction?", at The National People of Color Legal Scholarship Conference, American University Washington College of Law.
  • In March 2019, Professor Smita Narula presented "A Confluence of Rights: the Human Right to a Healthy Environment in Context", at Critical Perspectives on Human Rights, City College of New York.
  • In April 2019, Professor Smita Narula presented "Architects of a New Human Rights Paradigm, Revisiting Human Rights: The Universal Declaration", at Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University.
  • On April 11, 2019, the Pace-NRDC Food Law Initiative and American Farmland Trust hosted Protecting Farms for the Future: The Law and Practice of Agricultural Conservation Easements (CLE), at the Cornell Cooperative Extension.
  • On May 20, 2019, Professor  Jonathan Brown presented at What’s Law Got to Do with It? A Conversation About a Sustainable and Just Food System, New York State Health Foundation.
  • On June 4, 2019, FLI hosted a community forum on marijuana regulation in New York State, along with co-sponsors WESPAC Foundation, Start SMART NY, Westchester Coalition for Police Reform, Families for Sensible Drug Policy, and Women Grow.
  • In July 2019, Professor Smita Narula participated and presented at the Grassroots Political Forum on Land, Water, Food and Housing, side event to the U.N. High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, organized by WhyHunger, Just Food, and the Global Alliance on the Right to the City in Brooklyn, NY.
  • In October 2019, Professor Smita Narula presented "Food Justice and the Human Right to Food"at Marist College, Poughkeepsie, NY. 
  • On October 28, 2019: the PACE-NRDC Food Law Initiative, in partnership with the Manhattan Borough President’s Office, Watershed Agriculture Council (WAC), Center for Agricultural Development and Entrepreneurship (CADE), Hunter College Food Policy Center, and Fulton Stall Market (FSM), introduced key NYC food industry buyers to Catskill Watershed agricultural producers and regional food hubs & distribution networks that efficiently deliver Watershed products to NYC. The Catskill Watershed/Foodshed Farm-to-Table Forum took place at Pace University, NYC Campus. If you missed the event, you can watch the recording here. ​
  • November 6, 2019: The Pace-NRDC Food Law Initiative hosted a CLE Program on The Law At The Intersection Of Renewable Energy And Agriculture, at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University.
  • December 9, 2019: office hours: The National Young Farmers Coalition and Pace-NRDC Food Law Initiative held an "office hours" event, where farmers were paired up with attorneys for clinic-style meetings about any legal issue related to accessing farmland, starting a farm business, or transitioning farmland to a new generation. The event was free for farmers!

2018 Events

2017 Events

  • On February 13, 2017, Professor Margot Pollans and Kathleen Merrigan spoke to a passionate crowd at Grow NYC's Project Farmhouse on the future of food law. The event was a resounding success. Watch the conversation here.
  • On March 4, 2017, Professor  Margot Pollans interviewed Representative Sean Patrick Maloney about the Farm Bill at Bedford 2020 Food Forum in Mount Kisco, New York.
  • In March 2017, Jennifer Grossman spoke at E2 New York chapter’s “Farming for the Future” event on AeroFarms, a Newark-based, high tech vertical indoor farming operation. 
  • On April 20, 2017, Professor  Margot Pollans presented on a panel with Ellen J. Fried (NYU Department of Nutrition and Food Studies) and Michael R. Reese (Reese, LLP) at The Future of Food Law hosted by the Cardozo Environmental Law Society.
  • In May 2017,  Jennifer Grossman and Professor  Jonathan Brown presented at the third National Farm Viability Conference, in Albany NY.  
  • On May 17, 2017, Pace Law hosted Serve it Up Safely - Legal Issues for Food Service Companies, a workshop to discuss food safety, food marketing, and food-specific liability issues.
  • On Sept. 28, 2017, Professor  Margot Pollans presented Understanding the Farm Bill, Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture.
  •  In September 2017, Jennifer Grossman and Professor  Jonathan Brown presented an overview of the Food Law Initiative at the Ulster County, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Hudson Valley Farmlink event coordinated by American Farmland Trust. 
  • On December 6-8, 2017, Jennifer Grossman and Professor Jonathan Brown presented at the 10th annual Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture, Young Farmers Conference.
  • On December 1, 2017, Jennifer Grossman and Professor  Jonathan Brown presented an overview of the Food Law Initiative at the 2017 Land Use Leadership Alliance Training Program, in Poughkeepsie, NY. 

2016 Events

  • On January 27, 2016, students, attorneys, and others interested in the emerging field of food law gathered at the NRDC Offices in New York for a lecture inaugurating the Initiative. The lecture featured Professor Margot Pollans and Staff Attorney Margaret Brown (NRDC) and was moderated by Professor Jason J. Czarnezki. View video and pictures from the event. 
  • Law Clinic for Farm, Factory, and Office at the Food & Enterprise Summit, April 2016. 
  • On September 30, 2016, Professor Jonathan Brown and Professor Margot Pollans were invited to speak about FLI and food and beverage law issues at the Yale Food Systems Symposium.
  • Visiting Lecture by Paul Greenberg, Haub Environmental Author in Residence.
  • In December 2016, Professor  Jonathan Brown presented at GrowNYC Farm Beginnings Legal Training Class. 
  • On December 7-9, 2016, Professor  Margot Pollans, Jennifer Grossman and Professor Jonathan Brown presented at the annual Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture, Young Farmers Conference.

2015 Events 

  • In Fall 2015, Jennifer Grossman presented at Food & Enterprise: Anatomy of a Deal: NYS Craft Brewers, at Industry City, Brooklyn NY. 

2014 Events

  • In Fall 2014, Jennifer Grossman presented at Food & Enterprise: Anatomy of a Deal: Food Hubs, at the Wythe Hotel, Brooklyn NY. 

Food and Beverage Law Clinic

Food and Beverage Law Clinic FBLC Student Experience

In January 2017, Pace Law launched the Food and Beverage Law Clinic 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 and beverage clients. Under faculty supervision, law students in the Clinic represent farmers, food and beverage entrepreneurs, and nonprofit organizations. The Clinic’s legal services help clients expand access to local, healthy food in underserved communities, start or expand mission-driven business ventures, steward the preservation and transitioning of farmland for future generations of farmers, and implement innovative and sustainable production, processing, and distribution practices.

FBLC SeminarThe weekly seminar component of the Clinic teaches the substantive law and legal practice skills that are most useful to students during the semester. In addition, the seminar provides an opportunity to discuss the role of law and lawyers in food systems and the practical, ethical and policy-based issues that arise in the context of lawyering on behalf of mission-oriented individuals and organizations.

Externship and Other Opportunities for Law Students

Externship and Other Opportunities for Law Students

NRDC ExternshipThe Pace-NRDC Food Law Initiative offers a term-time for-credit externship placement with the NRDC’s New York team. The student will work with NRDC staff attorney on a range of food law and policy projects. Past projects have included research on soil health initiatives, local food hubs, and farm-to-school procurement.

NRDC Food Law Externship

As part of the Food Law Initiative, the Natural Resources Defense Council offers a for-credit placement to a Haub Law student in a Food Law Externship each fall and spring semester. Students earn four credits while working two days per week with the NRDC's food law team in New York City. The inaugural extern, Dr. Tyson-Lord Gray (Haub Law ’17), noted that "Because these topics are rarely addressed in standard law school classes, the Pace-NRDC Food Law Initiative provides any unparalleled experience for anyone interested in food and agricultural issues.”

Application Instructions

Please submit a CV, cover letter, and writing sample to by April 15 for a fall placement or by November 1 for a spring placement. The student selected must enroll in either Law 829, for a four-credit externship, or Law 901 for a two-credit externship. Students interested in the two-credit option should speak with Professor Jonathan Brown about identifying an appropriate externship faculty supervisor.

Other Food Law Employment Opportunities

*University of Arkansas Food & Ag Law Jobs Blog

*Harvard Food Law & Policy Clinic Food Law Career Guide

Interested students can contact Faculty Director Professor Brown for further information.

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Farm Law 101 Webinar

When: February 2, 20201

Time: 10:00 am - 12:00 pm

Where: Webinar

Cost: $10

The Pace-NRDC Food Law Initiative and New York Kitchen will be hosting Farm Law 101, an introduction to key legal topics for farmers and those interested in starting a farm business. Legal issues affect almost every aspect of establishing and growing a successful and resilient farm business – from leasing or buying land, forming a business entity, hiring workers, creating sales relationships, to getting insurance, and more. This program is a user-friendly primer designed to help both established and aspiring farmers identify key legal issues and know when to seek legal advice. To get more information or register, please visit here.