Welcome to the Ag & Food Law Blog

This blog provides a comprehensive news, research, and information resource on agricultural and food law for the nation’s agricultural community. 

It is provided as a partnership of The National Agricultural Law Center, the nation’s leading source of agricultural and food law research and information, and the American Agricultural Law Association, the only national professional organization focusing on the legal needs of the agricultural community.  Located in Fayetteville, Arkansas the National Agricultural Law Center serves the nation's agricultural community and is a unit of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.  In addition, the Center leads the eXtension Community of Practice for Agricultural and Food Law.

U.S. Restores Normalized Relations with Cuba, Agriculture to Benefit

Posted December 18, 2015

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stated that he believes agriculture will play an important role in strengthening the nation’s relationship with Cuba, according to a USDA statement available here. Politico also published an article here, The Des Moines Register here, and Reuters here.

“Throughout history, agriculture has served as a bridge to foster cooperation, understanding and the exchange of ideas among people. I have no doubt that agriculture will continue to play that powerful role as we expand our relationship with the Cuban people in the coming years.”

After more than 50 years, President Barack Obama announced that the U.S. plans to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, according to Reuters.

The policy will “expand trade, increase travel, and establish diplomatic relations with Cuba's communist regime,” according to The Des Moines Register.

"Today's announcement expands opportunity for U.S. farmers and ranchers to do business in Cuba. It removes technical barriers between U.S. and Cuban companies and creates a more efficient, less burdensome opportunity for Cuba to buy U.S. agricultural products. It also makes those products far more price competitive, which will expand choices for Cuban shoppers at the grocery store and create a new customer base for America's farmers and ranchers," said Vilsack in a statement.

The Obama administration is trying to eliminate previous restrictions on agricultural trade such as regulatory and financial hurdles, including restrictions on cash transactions, according to Politico.

With transaction costs drastically reduced, “it’s more likely now that Cuba will be able to do business at a higher level, from an agricultural product perspective,” said Vilsack.

Farmers in the Southeastern states will benefit most as they can easily ship products like poultry, rice, and corn to Cuba.

Other states with potential to benefit, include Georgia, Arkansas, Texas, North Carolina and Mississippi, with most products funneling through Louisiana, Florida, or Virginia ports.

Two Indicted in Organic Tomato Farm Case, Multiple Fraud Charges

Posted December 17, 2014

The Alabama Securities Commission has indicted James Albert Lawhorne and Jacqueline Wilson in multiple counts of stock fraud, according to an article by Alabama Media Group available here. WAFF also published an article available here.

Lawhorne was arrested in Tennessee, and his bond has been set at $600,000.

Wilson turned herself in to authorities, and she was released after posting an $80,000 bond.

James Lawhorne faces 24 charges, including theft by deception, misrepresentation of sale, and sale of unregistered securities, according to WAFF.

The pair attempted to attract investors to the business, Cypress Creek Organic Farms, with a claim that the farm would provide all testing, materials, supplies, equipment, training, and support for growing organic tomatoes. Additionally, Lawhorne would provide “USDA organic certification and a guaranteed buyback of the produce," according to Alabama Media Group.

Lawhorne and Wilson previously defend their Better Business Bureau F-rating in an interview available on WAFF’s site here.

The pair is also tied to another business in North Carolina known as Wormz Organic.

For more information on agricultural finance and credit, please visit the National Agricultural Law Center’s website here.

Michigan Governor Abolished Local Food Systems Council

Posted December 16, 2014

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder abolished a council that supported local food systems and agricultural diversity, according to an Inquisitr article available here.

Governor Jennifer Granholm established the Michigan Food Policy Council in 2005 hoping it would help citizens “cultivate a healthy, safe food supply, especially for low-income and urban households.”

The Council’s goal was to “bring together a diverse group of stakeholders” in order to improve Michigan’s food environment.”

“I appreciate the council’s work and am confident that this reorganization will build on its accomplishments to further protect and strengthen our state,” said Snyder.

Some local food advocates are unsure why Snyder abolished the Council.

For more information on local food systems, please visit the National Agricultural Law Center’s website here.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Denied Raw Milk Case

Posted December 16, 2014

Vernon Hershberger, Sauk County dairy farmer, will not appear in front of Wisconsin Supreme Court for his 2013 conviction for selling raw milk, according to a Wisconsin Ag Connection article available here. Wisconsin Radio Network also published an article here and NBC TMJ4 here.

After a raid on his property in 2010, Hershberger was found guilty of violating a state hold order placed on his milk products.

He asked the court to review his case arguing that he “operates a private buying club that’s not subject to the same rules as a farmer,” according to TMJ4.

Hershberger also argued that he was not allowed to present evidence for his case and an unedited copy of the holding order was kept out of evidence, according to Wisconsin Radio Network.

The Justices did not give a reason as to why they rejected the appeal.

For more information on food safety, please visit the National Agricultural Law Center’s website here.

USDA Requesting Comments on EQIP Rule

Posted December 15, 2014

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is publishing a rule that outlines improvements to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), a large conservation program, according to a release available here.

The interim final rule includes program changes authorized by Congress in the 2014 Farm Bill.

"This interim final rule provides a roadmap to help streamline and simplify EQIP for farmers and ranchers," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "We strongly encourage agricultural producers, private forest landowners and stakeholders to provide comments on our implementation processes. This feedback will help us improve our operation and deliver technical and financial assistance more efficiently to our nation's agricultural producers and forest landowners."

The Federal Register is available here.

Comments are accepted until Feb. 10, 2015.

For more information on environmental law, please visit the National Agricultural Law Center’s website here.

Senate Passes $1.1 Trillion Spending Package, Many Agricultural Riders

Posted December 15, 2014

The U.S. Senate passed a $1.1 trillion spending package to fund the federal government for the remaining fiscal period, according to a Food Safety News article available here. Feedstuffs also published an article available here.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama stated that he would sign the bill “despite the administration’s objections to certain riders and disappointment that the bill will only fund the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 27, 2015.”

More than $1 billion is allocated to USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) in the Cromnibus, almost $2.6 billion in discretionary funding for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), including almost $1 million for the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and $147 million for the Center for Veterinary Medicine.

Food safety increased by $8 million for “advancing diagnostic capabilities using DNA technology and enhancing surveillance, detection and prevention efforts at the state and local level.”

The House passed the bill by a 219-206 margin, according to Feedstuffs.

The bill provides a total of $20.6 billion for agriculture in discretionary funding, $305 million below the fiscal year 2014 enacted level.

For a summary of the riders impacting agriculture, please visit Feedstuffs’ site here.

For more information on food safety, please visit the National Agricultural Law Center’s website here.