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NEW RESEARCH: Key Drivers of State Preemption of Food, Nutrition, and Agriculture Policy: A Thematic Content Analysis of Public Testimony

January 17, 2019

This study provides new evidence on the arguments made in support and opposition to preemption of food and agriculture policy. Like previous research, we found that proponents of preemption primarily argued that statewide or even federal standards were preferable and that preemption was necessary to protect businesses and consumers. Conversely, opponents primarily argued that local control was necessary and beneficial for local businesses, communities, and community members using arguments related to local democracy, public health, and healthy food access. Opponents made the majority of arguments and engaged in persuasive messaging. Nonetheless, Kansas enacted this law, broadly preempting state and local control over multiple food and nutrition policy and agricultural topics. This indicates that more is relevant to passage of preemption than the frequency of sophisticated messaging at the hearing stage. Specifically, 3 pivotal key themes emerged that shed light on some of the true underlying issues that drove passage of preemption in Kansas.

So What?

What Is Already Known on This Topic?

Preemption, when a higher level of government limits the policymaking authority of lower levels, may negatively affect communities’ ability to enact public health policies.

The food industry has pursued state preemption as a policy strategy nationally.

What Does This Article Add?

To evaluate underlying drivers of state preemption, this article identified and analyzed key arguments made in testimony during a state bill hearing on the most comprehensive food policy preemptive law enacted to date.

Confusion about bill language and coverage, the combination of both food and agricultural policy issues in 1 bill and backing by multinational corporations helped propel preemption forward to passage.

What Are the Implications for Health Promotion Practice or Research?

Communities and local stakeholders can anticipate similar industry tactics and arguments in support of preemption as identified in this study and prepare to counter and prevent preemption in their states.

Key Drivers of State Preemption of Food, Nutrition, and Agriculture Policy: A Thematic Content Analysis of Public Testimony