UACES Facebook Agricultural and Food Law Consortium launched
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Agricultural and Food Law Consortium launched

September 26, 2014 

Fast facts:

  • Agricultural and Food Law Consortium established with $750,000 USDA grant
  • National Agricultural Law Center, a unit of the Division of Agriculture, is lead institution
  • Penn State, University of Mississippi, and The Ohio State University are partners in consortium
  • Read more about the consortium, visit

(747 words)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Understanding how food and agriculture laws affect land- and sea-based food, fiber and energy production is the mission of a federally funded four-university partnership that makes up the Agricultural and Food Law Consortium.

The consortium will expand the reach of objective agricultural and food law research and information to the nation’s agricultural community of producers, state and federal policymakers, attorneys, Cooperative Extension Service professionals, and others at the state, regional, and national levels. The scope of the Consortium includes land-based food, fiber, and energy production systems, as well as seafood and marine-based production via aquaculture.

The National Agricultural Law Center, or NALC, a unit of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, is the lead institution. Three other institutions are members of the new effort that is supported by a $750,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Library, an entity with the USDA Agricultural Research Service. They are:

  • The National Sea Grant Law Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law;
  • The Agricultural Law Resource Reference Center at Penn State Law; and
  • The Agricultural and Resource Law Program at The Ohio State University.

“This is a first-of-its kind partnership in the United States and a natural expansion of our longstanding formal partnership with the USDA National Agricultural Library,” said Harrison Pittman, NALC director.  “We are very proud to continue our work with these consortium partners for many years to come.”

Building on individual strengths

In its three decades, the NALC has built a reputation as the nation’s leading source for agricultural and food law research and information. Building the consortium with the three other universities “will enhance what our stakeholders in Arkansas around the country receive in terms of objective and timely agricultural and food law research and information,” Pittman said.  

The NALC covers more than 50 areas of agricultural and food law including biotechnology, the Farm Bill, states’ right-to-farm laws, environmental law, animal wellbeing issues and many others. “The consortium will allow us to address many of these and other areas in more detail, leveraging respective institutional strengths of consortium members,” Pittman said. For example, the NALC provided the National Sea Grant Law Center (NSGLC) with its state-by-state analyses of laws governing direct marketing so the NSGLC, a NOAA-funded legal research, education, and outreach program, could adapt it to provide information on the direct marketing of aquaculture products in Alabama.

The NSGLC focuses on ocean and coastal law and policy issues, including marine and freshwater aquaculture, coastal land use issues, and environmental law such as Clean Water Act implementation.  The Penn State center has a strong background in shale oil and gas issues such as leasing and local government regulations of shale-related production activity, both important issues for rural landowners. It also concentrates on labeling of genetically modified organisms, local government regulation of agriculture, and Chesapeake Bay watershed issues. The strength of the Ohio State center is doing research and outreach that impact producers such as food entrepreneurship, impact of the Food Safety Modernization Act, employment law, the use of drones in agriculture, and agricultural leases.

Stakeholder survey          

The consortium has launched an online survey that will help define its long-term research and information agenda.  A link to the survey is provided below. 

One of the consortium’s first project areas will be a webinar series covering various issues in agricultural and food law such as state laws on GMO labeling, food safety, and shale energy. It will also take advantage of the collective resources of eXtension, the Cooperative Extension Service’s online version, which is divided into communities of practice. The NALC is the lead institution for the eXtension agricultural and food law community of practice. “With the consortium, we’re going to use eXtension to attract new members and focus part of our programs through eXtension,” Pittman said. The consortium will also coordinate with academics and others to provide financial support for the development of targeted agricultural and food law research and information. 

Administrators at the other institutions expressed their support for the consortium.

"The National Sea Grant Law Center is honored to be a part of this new initiative to increase the availability and accessibility of high-quality, non-biased legal information,” said Stephanie Showalter Otts, NSGLC director. “We look forward to sharing our resources and expertise to address their legal outreach needs."

“The consortium framework will enable us to collaboratively address national needs for timely and objective research on agricultural and food law issues,” said Peggy Kirk Hall, director of the agricultural law program at Ohio State.

Ross Pifer, director of the Penn State center, said, “Through our membership in the consortium, Penn State Law will be able to continue – and expand – our research and outreach on the important legal issues facing today’s agricultural producers and rural communities.”

Additional information about the consortium, including a link to the online survey, is online at

Contact: Dave Edmark
Division of Agriculture Communications

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