Agricultural Exceptionalism, Environmental Injustice, and U.S. Right-to-Farm Laws

September 2022
ELR 10727
Danielle Diamond, Loka Ashwood, Allen Franco, Lindsay Kuehn, Aimee Imlay, and Crystal Boutwell

While the environmental justice movement has gained traction in the United States, the relationship between agri-food systems and environmental injustices in rural areas has yet to come into focus. This Article explores the relationship between U.S. agricultural exceptionalism and rural environmental justice through examining right-to-farm laws. It demonstrates that the justification for these statutes, protecting farmers from nuisance suits, in practice transfers power from rural communities to industrial agriculture by safeguarding agribusiness interests and certain types of production from lawsuits and liability. It considers how the original impetus behind agricultural exceptionalism—to safeguard the food system through distributed and vibrant farms— can be reconciled with environmental justice by repealing right-to-farm laws.

Danielle Diamond is a visiting fellow with the Brooks McCormick Jr. Animal Law & Policy Program at Harvard Law School. Loka Ashwood is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Kentucky. Allen Franco has a J.D. and an LL.M. in agriculture and food law from the University of Arkansas, and is an assistant federal public defender with the Arkansas Capital Habeas Unit. Lindsay Kuehn is a former pig farmer, now a staff attorney with the Farmers’ Legal Action Group. Aimee Imlay is a sociology Ph.D. candidate at the University of Kentucky. Crystal Boutwell has a master’s degree in rural sociology and a bachelor’s degree in natural resources management.

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Agricultural Exceptionalism, Environmental Injustice, and U.S. Right-to-Farm Laws

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