Food, Farming & Sustainability: The LL.M. Program in Agricultural & Food Law
The University of Arkansas School of Law offers the only advanced legal degree program in agricultural & food law in the United States, with a curriculum specializing in the law of food and agriculture.
Each year, the LL.M. Program in Agricultural & Food Law prepares a small number of carefully selected attorneys as specialists in the complex legal issues involving agriculture and our food system.
The Program attracts candidates from throughout the United States and the world. Our alumni currently work in 40 different states and 17 foreign countries, serving as leaders in private practice, government, agribusiness, public policy, and academia.
The laws that apply to the production, marketing, and sale of the food we eat, the natural fibers we wear, and increasingly, the bio-fuel that runs our cars have an extraordinary impact on us all. In the LL.M. Program in Agricultural & Food Law, we study the full spectrum of law and policy from “from farm to fork” – from the perspective of the farmer, the processor, the retailer, and the consumer.
Specialized LL.M. courses are taught by nationally recognized scholars and practitioners through a mix of law professors at the University of Arkansas School of Law, Visiting Professors that teach condensed courses, and special guests that deliver topical presentations. Graduates of the program are among the leaders of today’s agricultural law and food law communities, working in private practice, government, industry, public policy, and academia.
The Graduate Legal Studies Committee may permit an applicant with a degree from an accredited law school to take graduate-level courses for credit without being admitted as a degree candidate. Credits so earned are recorded as non-degree credits. If the student earning non-degree credits is subsequently admitted as a degree candidate, the Graduate Legal Studies Committee shall, in its discretion, decide whether prior credits may be applied toward the LL.M. degree.
A graduate student at the University of Arkansas in a discipline other than law may enroll in the law school’s graduate-level courses with the approval of the student’s department, the dean of the university graduate school, and the director of the graduate law program.
The School of Law cooperates with the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness in the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences to offer a dual-degree program leading to the LL.M. in Agricultural & Food Law and Master of Science in agricultural economics degrees.
Each program applies its own admission standards. For further information on the master’s in agricultural economics, contact the graduate program adviser at (479) 575-2256.
Opportunities for J.D. Students
Elective Food and Agricultural Law Courses Available
J.D. students in good standing at the University of Arkansas School of Law have the opportunity to enroll in many of the specialized LL.M courses as electives in the J.D. program. Food Law & Policy, Agriculture & the Environment, Selected Issues in Food Law, and Agricultural Bankruptcy have all been popular choices for J.D. enrollment.
The Journal of Food Law & Policy
School of Law students that are interested in food law and/or scholarly writing have an opportunity to apply for positions on the Journal of Food Law and Policy, a student edited professional journal.
The Nine Hour Program
A School of Law student who is within nine hours of completing the total credit hours required to earn a J.D. degree may be admitted conditionally to the graduate law program. This allows students to begin their LL.M. coursework during their final semester of law school. Credits are assigned to either the J.D. program or the LL.M. program but cannot be counted toward both degrees. In order to be admitted to the nine-hour program, a J.D. student must:
- obtain advance approval from the Graduate Legal Studies Committee;
- obtain advance approval from the director of the graduate law program for credits to be applied toward the LL.M. degree; and
- earn a grade of 2.5 or higher in each course to be applied toward the LL.M. degree.
A student who satisfies these requirements and who is subsequently awarded a J.D. degree will be admitted to the graduate program as a degree candidate, unless the Graduate Legal Studies Committee determines that there are substantial grounds for revocation of the conditional admission.
The courses offered as part of the LL.M. curriculum are specifically designed to address the most current legal issues involving the law of food and agriculture. The curriculum and the focus in each of the individual courses varies year to year as professors incorporate new issues.
Introduction to the Law of Food & Agriculture (1 credit) – This course provides an overview of the legal and policy issues presented by the production of food and fiber, including a discussion of structural changes in agriculture, sustainability issues, and trends in direct marketing and consumer interest. This special introduction is taught by Professor Neil Hamilton as a condensed course that is taught over several days. Professor Hamilton is the Dwight D. Opperman Chair of Law & Professor of Law at Drake University Law School and also serves as the Director of the Drake Agricultural Law Center.
Agriculture & the Environment (3 credits) – Agriculture is increasingly criticized for its impact on the environment. This course examines the tensions between the desire to produce food and fiber efficiently and concern for the protection of natural resources. The application of the major federal environmental statutes to agricultural operations will be presented, with discussion of the exemptions for agriculture and the impact of industrialized agricultural production on environmental regulation. This regular semester course is taught by Associate Professor Christopher Kelley, a tenured member of the faculty of the University of Arkansas School of Law.
Food Law & Policy (3 credits) – This course examines the network of laws that govern our food system, focusing on the concepts of “misbranding” and “adulteration” of food products. While the course is based on the statutory framework for regulation, it considers the law in light current issues in the news. Both FDA and USDA authorities are discussed along with significant policy issues such as obesity, the approval and labeling of genetically engineered food products, the approval of new food additives, and health claims in labeling and advertising. This regular semester course is taught by Professor Susan Schneider, a tenured member of the faculty of the University of Arkansas School of Law.
Food, Farming & Sustainability (1 credit) – This is a survey course is adapted from the casebook by the same name authored by Professor Schneider. It consists of a combination of traditional lecture/discussion with special presentations by practicing attorneys and other professionals with particular legal expertise. The course is divided into discreet units designed to introduce some of the critical legal issues facing the industry and consumers today. Agricultural exceptionalism, agrarianism, agricultural commercial law, discrimination in agricultural lending, and federal farm policy are all topics that are included. The course provides a mix of law and policy, and it is designed to spark thoughtful dialogue. This regular semester course is taught by Professor Susan Schneider, a tenured member of the faculty of the University of Arkansas School of Law.
Food Safety & Litigation (1 credit) – This course explores food safety litigation through a review of actual cases. It is designed and taught each fall by the nationally recognized trial lawyer, Bill Marler, founding member of the firm of Marler Clark based in Seattle, Washington. It is a condensed course that is taught over several days.
Regulation of Livestock Sales (1 credit) – This regular semester course examines livestock sales with a particular focus on the regulation of these sale under the Packers & Stockyards Act. The prohibition against unfair practices and the controversy regarding the definition of this term, mandatory price reporting, industry concentration and anti-trust issues, and the rules promulgated by the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration are all discussed. This course is taught by LL.M. alumnus and practicing attorney, Vincent Chadick, a partner in the Bassett Law Firm.
Federal Farm Policy (1 credit) – This course explores the complex world of federal farm programs. It is taught in the context of a practical look at representing farmers in federal farm program matters and considers, program eligibility, payment limitations, USDA administrative appeals, crop insurance issues, conservation easements, and farm business planning. The course was designed and is taught by practicing attorney and recognized agricultural law expert, Allen Olson from Albany, Georgia. It is a condensed course that is taught over several days.
Selected Issues in Food Law (1 credit) – This course offers the opportunity for the specialized study of food law and policy topics that are not addressed in the Food Law & Policy class. Fall 2012, we were fortunate to have a new professor join our ranks to teach a special course on the history and current regulation of food by the FDA. Professor Peter Barton Hutt, senior counsel in the Washington, D.C. law firm of Covington & Burling and Food and Drug Law professor at Harvard Law School was with us for two very full days of lecture in this condensed course.
Legal issues in Agricultural & Food Law (2 credits) – This course is designed as a survey course that introduces substantive areas of agricultural and food law and provides practice and policy perspectives. The course involves traditional lecture and discussion, supplemented by frequent conversations with leaders in agricultural law, food law, and/or sustainability, often by live video conference. Topics addressed will include: current issues in agricultural biotechnology; agricultural bankruptcy; land use and urban agriculture; biofuels and energy policy; global food security and agricultural policy; animal welfare concerns and livestock production, and agricultural cooperatives. This regular semester based class is taught by Professor Susan Schneider.
Agricultural Policy Making and the Impact of the Federal Budget (1 credit) – This unique and practical course considers how federal budgetary issues impact, and sometimes guide the development of federal agricultural policy. It explores the policy impact of the Office of Management and Budget and the cost scoring system that governs new federal legislation. This course was designed and is taught by David Grahn, the Associate General Counsel for International Affairs, Food Assistance, and Farm and Rural Programs in the Office of General Counsel of the USDA. It is a condensed course that is taught over several days, with follow up via live video conferencing from Washington.
Research & Writing in Agricultural & Food Law (1 credit) – This is a pass/fail course designed to assist LL.M. candidates with their legal writing. It begins with a series of presentations on effective legal writing and associated assignments. It concludes with student presentations on their selected thesis topic, inviting discussion and suggestion from their colleagues. This is regular semester course taught by Professor Christopher Kelley.
Agricultural Perspectives (1 credit) – Agriculture has a rich and varied history, and today’s issues are often best understood in the context of this history. This course examines a wide range of social and economic issues, considering their origin and how history is reflected in today’s policies. Topics considered include agrarianism, land tenancy issues, slavery, farm structure, early farm activism, the Dust Bowl, and migrant farm labor. The course includes a series of documentaries. It is offered as a regular semester course taught by Professor Susan Schneider.
Regulated Markets in Agriculture (1 credit) – This is a practical course focusing on discreet elements of the agricultural industry. It covers the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (including prompt pay provisions for fruit and vegetable sellers), Marketing Orders, Formal & Informal Adjudication, and Judicial Review. This regular semester course is taught by Professor Christopher Kelley.
Agricultural Water Law (1 credit) – This course provides students with an introduction to the basic legal principles applicable to water rights and use. It then focuses specifically on water rights for agricultural uses, an area of growing legal concern and significance. James Corbridge, Chancellor Emeritus and Professor of Law Emeritus from the University of Colorado and author of WATER RESOURCE MANAGEMENT: A CASEBOOK OF LAW AND PUBLIC POLICY teaches this course. It is offered during the first half of the semester.
Agricultural Labor Law (1 credit) – This course that examines the legal, social, and economic issues that arise from the extensive use of migrant labor in U.S. agricultural operations. This complex issue is analyzed from many perspectives. Topics include agricultural exemptions from labor laws, the Migrant & Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, and agriculture’s reliance on undocumented alien workers. The course readings include the book, With These Hands, a collection of interviews with farm workers, contractors, farmers, processors, and others involved in agricultural labor. This course is offered during the second half of the semester and is taught by Professor Susan Schneider.
International Agricultural Trade (2 credits) – This course introduces students to the legal structure of international trade in agricultural goods focusing particularly on the World Trade Organization and agricultural trade treaties. Although it is offered as part of the law school’s J.D. curriculum, it is tailored to LL.M. Program interests and made available to interested LL.M. candidates. It is taught by University of Arkansas School of Law tenured professor Uche Ewelukwa as a regular semester course.
Rural Lands – Rural Livelihoods (1 credit) – This course explores rural development initiatives and the many ways that rural communities are attempting to revitalize their economies, including the local food industry, wind energy, and beginning farmer programs. Current events, including policy issues are also discussed. This course is taught by Professor Neil Hamilton as a condensed course that is taught over several days.
Master’s Thesis in Agricultural Law (1 to 4 credits) – As part of the requirements for the LL.M. degree, each student must perform research in a specialized area of agricultural law and develop an article or other product suitable for publication. This course is for LL.M. students only.
Independent Research in Agricultural Law (1 credit) – This course allows for the intensive coverage of a specialized topic in agricultural or food law that is not covered in an existing law course.
History of the Program
From 1976-1978, under the leadership of Dean Wylie Davis, the Committee on Graduate Programs researched alternatives for the establishment of an LL.M. program at the University of Arkansas School of Law. One alternative that was carefully considered was the establishment of a program focused on a study of agricultural law.
On February 28, 1978, the faculty voted to approve the creation of the Graduate Program in Agricultural Law. The Committee undertook the task of preparing the appropriate proposals for approval and accreditation. A proposal for the program was approved by the faculty on March 28, 1978 and submitted to the Department of Higher Education.
Under the leadership of Dean Epstein, Professor Jake Looney was hired as Director of the new program in 1980. Professor Looney spent his first year developing policies for the LL.M. Program, recruiting students and faculty, and meeting the administrative needs of the new program.
In 1981, Professor Neil Hamilton was hired for a second graduate program faculty position and the first graduate class was enrolled in 1981-1982.
In 1982, Professor Looney became Dean of the Law School, but continued to serve as Director of the Graduate Program and to teach in the Program.
In 1983, Professor Don Pedersen was hired as the new Director of the Graduate Program, a role he held until 1994.
In 1985, Professor Pedersen published AGRICULTURAL LAW: CASES AND MATERIALS along with Professors Keith Meyer (University of Kansas), Norman Thorson (University of Nebraska), and John Davidson, Jr. (South Dakota).
In 1995, Professors Pedersen and Meyer published the Agricultural Law Nutshell.
Professor Lonnie Beard became Director beginning with the 1994-1995 academic year and continued in this capacity until 1999-2000.
Christopher Kelley and Susan Schneider were hired as a joint appointment in 1998, and in 2000, Susan Schneider assumed the role of Director of the LL.M. Program.
In March of 2009, the School of Law faculty approved the name change of the program to the LL.M. Program in Agricultural and Food Law. In August of 2009, this name change was approved by the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees.
In August 2012 the School of Law welcomed back program founders, Professor Don Pederson, Judge Jake Looney, and Professor Neil Hamilton to celebrate and honor our Alumni and welcome the class of 2013.