Agriculture-related legal issues focus of April 17 meeting

Mid-South Agricultural and Environmental Law Conference set for April 17. Registration, agenda details provided.

Unlike many in urban settings, farmers know all too well that agriculture is more than just dropping a seed in the ground and then waiting around until harvest.

Legal issues are also a big part of farming and that’s why, for the second year, the Mid-South will host an April 17 meeting that will hit on many agriculture-related law topics. The Mid-South Agricultural and Environmental Law Conference will be held at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. The meeting will be hosted by the Agricultural & Food Law Consortium and is co-sponsored by Delta Farm Press.

For early registration visit

“Since last year was the kick-off for this conference, we weren’t sure what the turnout would be,” says Stephanie Otts, director of the National Sea Grant Law Center at Ole Miss. “It can take a couple of years to get the word on meetings like this. So, we were very pleased that we had the attendance we did -- 60 people showed up.

“We’re very focused on farming and practical legal challenges producers are facing -- less of an academic-type conference. Lots of local attorneys that work in the farming communities of the Mid-South were on the agenda and the feedback was tremendous. The audience let us know that the topics covered were really of use. That was gratifying because that’s what we were aiming for.”

What current issues is Otts watching?

“I do more on marine and freshwater aquaculture issues. There have been a lot of elements in the South with respect to aquaculture. Both Mississippi and Alabama are taking steps to increase marine aquaculture production. They’ve formed some legislative committees to consider changing laws and regulations to make it easier to get those industries up and running.

“Some of those issues on the marine aquaculture side actually have applications, or impacts, on freshwater aquaculture. The same agencies are involved with similar safety issues.”

Another thing getting close scrutiny is the revision to the Food Safety Modernization Act. “People are really talking about that and there are several big environmental lawsuits that have to do with nutrient run-off from farms.”

At the April 17 meeting, Otts says the proceedings will kick off “with a general overview, high-level discussion of what’s happened over the last year with respect to agriculture and agricultural law. I’ll be speaking on that and some of the developments with invasive species. Also, I’ll be speaking on the Clean Water Act and other laws.”

Any court decisions our readers should be looking for?

“Everyone is waiting for the Waterways of the U.S. proposed rule. That’s been discussed a lot of Capitol Hill.

“Also, litigation was filed in Des Moines on drainage ditch districts and some of the Clean Water Act requirements. Another case, revolving around dairy in Washington, is working its way through the courts. The appeals process will be important to keep an eye on.”

This year’s conference will provide CLE (Continuing Legal Education) credits for Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.

Among the topics and speakers:

  • “Agricultural & Environmental Law Update:  Recent Trends and Developments” with Stephanie Showalter Otts, Director, National Sea Grant Law Center; Peggy Kirk Hall, Director, Agricultural & Resource Law Program, The Ohio State University; Ross Pifer, Director, Clinical Professor of Law and Director, Agricultural Law Resource & Reference Center, Penn State Law; and Rusty Rumley, Senior Staff Attorney, National Agricultural Law Center, University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
  • “2014 Farm Bill for Practitioners, Lenders, and Other Ag Professionals” with Anne Hazlett, Republican Chief Counsel, United States Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry; and Greg Cole, President and Chief Operating Officer, AgHeritage Farm Credit Services.

“This panel includes Ann Hazlett, a top attorney working with the Senate Agriculture Committee,” says Harrison Pittman, director of the National Ag Law Center at the University of Arkansas. “She’s been on the Hill for many years and has worked for lawmakers like (Kansas) Sen. Pat Roberts, (Mississippi) Sen. Thad Cochran and (Georgia) Sen. Saxby Chambliss. She’s very, very knowledgeable on farm bills and their implementation.”

  • ”USDA National Appeals Division 101:  What you and your farm client need to know” with Amanda Urbanek, Deputy Assistant Director, USDA-National Appeals Division, Southern Region.
  • “Farm succession and estate planning for Mid-South agriculture” with Robert Serio, Serio & Bishop (Clarendon, Ark.) and Stan Miller, McChain, Miller, & Nissman (Little Rock, Ark.).
  • “Ethical considerations for farm clients” with John Dillard, Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz PC.
  • “Easement Negotiation 101: Focus on gas pipelines and energy transmission lines” with Peggy Kirk Hall and Ross Pifer.

The meeting will begin at 8:15 a.m. and end at 4:00 p.m. The University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in located at 1 North Front Street in Memphis.

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