UACES Facebook Ag and Environmental Law Conference speakers give insights into realities of hemp, down farm economy
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Ag and Environmental Law Conference speakers give insights into realities of hemp, down farm economy

By Sarah Cato
U of A System Division of Agriculture
June 21, 2019 

Fast facts

  • Vaden: “No state can stop the interstate transport of hemp.”
  • Speakers discuss ag labor; trade, endangered species
  • Conference materials can be found here: 

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The new realities of hemp and the hard realities of a down farm economy are among the issues speakers brought to the sixth annual Mid-South Agricultural and Environmental Law Conference. 


“Hemp is no longer a controlled substance,” USDA General Counsel Stephen Vaden told the crowd. “But the big issue now is transportation. No state can stop the interstate transport of hemp.” 

When Vaden transitioned to the topic of trade aid, he gave a recap of U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s stance on trade mitigation payments. 

“Trade is very much on everyone’s mind,” Vaden said. “The Secretary has been very clear on what to do. You should put the possibility of a government payment out of your mind and do what you normally would do based on market signals. You should focus on harvesting a crop, not a government program.” 

As for who does qualify for aid, Vaden said many have the wrong idea. 

“The trade mitigation program for 2019 has been announced and we will begin to implement that immediately,” he said. “Payments will not be based on which crop affected by trade you plant. It will be based on where you plant, on a county-by-county basis.” 

The conference, held June 6-7, was hosted by the National Agricultural Law Center at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphrey’s School of Law. Vaden was among nine invited speakers covering a variety of topics that affect agriculture in the Mid-South and beyond.  

Down farm economy: Trends and outlooks

Michael O’Neal, Deputy General of GreenStone Farm Credit Services, discussed how his business acknowledges the difficulties American farmers are facing. 

“A down farm economy means we work harder,” he said. “We roll up our sleeves and work with our borrowers the best we can.” 

GreenStone remains mindful of personal and emotional issues that affect producers, as well as difficulties specific to beginning farmers. 

“We keep in mind suicide rates and depression on the farm,” O’Neal said. “We have a no-surprise rule and our customers receive personal communication. For our younger customers we have a mentorship program.” 

Greg Cole, president and CEO of AgHeritage Farm Credit Services, gave an update on the current economical struggles agriculturalists are facing today. 

“I can sum up this year in two words: too much,” Cole said. “Too much water, too much excess global supply of certain crop commodities, too late on planting, too much fighting with trade, and farmers have to rely too much on politicians. There’s still a lot of time in this game, we’re still in business, but some are on their last breath.” 

Cole addressed farming tactics and which are the most effective. 

“It all comes down to management,” he said. “People that view farming as a business, not just a way of life, are more successful. You have to identify risk, quantify the risk, and manage the risk.” 

Information on farm economy trends and outlooks can be found here: 

Navigating environmental law issues

Jim Noles, partner at Barze Taylor Noles Lowther, LLC in Alabama, gave an overview on environmental issues affecting attorneys, lenders and landowners, beginning with the Endangered Species Act. 

“You’ve got a lot of endangered species out there,” Noles said. “A lot of those species are in one small area and that’s a challenge you may face. These listings become death by 1,000 cuts.” 

Ultimately, Noles said it is important to be familiar with environmental laws and regulations because, “the penalties are just so great.” 

“You need to comply with these laws and regulations as well as track them and decide if you want to weigh in on them as they’re developed,” he said. “Work to make sure that there are laws going out with which you can comply.” 

Detailed information on environmental laws covered can be found here:

Fred Clark, senior counsel for the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and Prescott Martin, senior counsel for the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture also gave updates on agricultural law and policy from Washington. 

Vaden said the conference was relevant and informative. 

“This is the second year I have attended this conference and I wouldn’t have come back if I didn’t find the conference valuable,” Vaden said. Harrison Pittman, director of the National Agricultural Law Center, “is bringing together people in D.C. and those we represent, which allows us to hear the issues that local producers are having.”  

“The content is excellent,” said Ross Pifer, director of the Center for Agricultural and Shale Law at Penn State. “The topics covered have been relevant to a national audience, not just the mid-south area.” 

“The conference was great,” said Nowell Berreth, partner at Alston and Bird, LLP. “The content is very valuable. The speakers have been very engaging and funny, I like that they’re injecting humor into their presentations. 

A complete list of materials from the conference can be found here:

For more information on upcoming events, visit


About the National Agricultural Law Center

The National Agricultural Law Center serves as the nation’s leading source of agricultural and food law research and information. The Center works with producers, state and federal policymakers, Congressional staffers, attorneys, land grant universities, and many others to provide objective, nonpartisan agricultural and food law research and information to the nation’s agricultural community. 

The Center is a unit of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and works in close partnership with the USDA Agricultural Research Service, National Agricultural Library. 

About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system. 

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.  

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact 479-575-4607 as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.  

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Media Contact: Sarah Cato  
National Agricultural Law Center
U of A Division of Agriculture