Lytton Awarded USDA Grant

Georgia State Law professor Timothy D. Lytton and collaborators at North Carolina State University have received a $500,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to study and enhance the food safety practices of small farmers. Georgia State Law students Caitlin Correa (J.D. ’19) and Mark Hunter (J.D. ’20) will be part of the research team.

The five-year research collaboration between Lytton and agricultural economists at North Carolina State aims to understand how product recall and liability insurance can improve the food safety practices of small farmers. Insurance companies help food producers stay in business when contamination of their products by microbial pathogens such as Salmonella and E. coli requires expensive product recalls or sparks civil lawsuits.

Insurance companies don’t merely step in after consumers get sick. In many sectors of the food industry, insurers also work to reduce the risk of contamination before it occurs. For example, insurance companies charge lower premiums to companies with good food safety practices, which incentivizes companies to improve their food safety efforts. Insurance companies also provide risk management consulting services, sending food safety experts out to coach company managers in how to reduce the risk of microbial contamination.

The research collaboration will examine current recall and liability insurance markets for small farmers and look for ways to increase small farmers’ access to these forms of insurance. Many of the farmers’ markets where small farmers sell their produce and many of their large institutional buyers—such as supermarkets and schools—who buy it require their suppliers to carry liability and recall insurance. Increasing small farmers’ access to insurance will not only enhance their food safety practices, it will also open up new markets for small farmers and increase their profitability in an industry dominated by large-scale agribusiness.