Find an Agriculture Law Lawyer

The laws and regulations pertaining to agriculture are some of the most extensive and complex in any industry. These laws encompass many different areas of law—environmental law (both state and federal), administrative law, commercial law, taxation, labor law, intellectual property law, and international trade.

In addition, a wide range of local, state and federal laws are directed solely at agriculture, including but not limited to the law of government farm programs, right to farm laws, and farm finance and credit laws. The structure of agriculture, the safety of our food and the allocation of agricultural resources create the foundation of agricultural law.


The United States Department of Agriculture is a central federal department that was first created to provide American farmers with a source of knowledge about farming and was meant to be a resource that farmers could turn to, to receive general information. But when the country was experiencing the Great Depression, agricultural commodities were at all-time low prices, so the USDA stepped in and initiated, for the first time, support of commodity prices and farm income.

The USDA has the authority to address agricultural issues, to undertake a variety of studies, research, and investigations and to engage in other information-gathering activities. It works with state, county, municipal, and tribal governments to protect the consuming public as well as farmers and ranchers. The department protects the country's 192 million acres of national forests and rangelands, making it the country's largest conservation agency. The USDA encourages voluntary efforts to protect soil, water, and wildlife on 70 percent of America's privately owned land. It brings housing, modern telecommunications and safe drinking water to rural areas and is responsible for guaranteeing the safety of meat, poultry, and egg products for consumers. It also leads research in everything from human nutrition to new crop technologies that allow us to grow more food and fiber using less water and pesticides.

The Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA)

The Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) was drafted in 1933 by Henry Wallace, Franklin D. Roosevelt's Secretary of Agriculture. The AAA paid farmers not to grow crops and not to produce dairy produce such as milk and butter or to raise pigs and lambs. The money to pay the farmers for cutting back production was raised by taxing companies that bought the farm products and processed them into food and clothing.

The Supreme Court declared the AAA unconstitutional in 1936, with the majority of judges (6-3) ruling it illegal to levy a tax on one group (the processors) in order to pay it to another (the farmers). In 1938, another AAA was passed without the processing tax. It was financed out of general taxation, making it acceptable according to the Supreme Court.

The 1996 Federal Agricultural Improvement Reform Act (FAIRA)

This law calls for tightened restrictions on water pollution generated by farms, promotes cost sharing with farmers who practice conservation and endorses new programs to protect the environment.

The Water Pollution Control Act (CWA)

The CWA was enacted to control water pollution by establishing a basic structure for discharging pollutants into bodies of water in the United States and made it unlawful for any person to discharge any pollutant from a point source into navigable waters, unless a permit was obtained under its provisions.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

This act established a Council on Environmental Quality because nearly all federal activities affect the environment in some way. It mandated that before federal agencies make decisions, they must consider the effects of their actions on the quality of the human environment.

Endangered Species Act (ESA)

Destroying an endangered species habitat by cultivating formerly unplanted acreage is a violation of ESA and has severe penalties. States are encouraged to enforce their own environmental acts, which must be at least as stringent as the federal laws.

By Margie Monin           

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