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. We offer face-to-face instruction in a small classroom setting along with new online opportunities designed for experienced attorneys.
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.
Required Courses for the LL.M. Degree
Introduction to the Law of Food & Agriculture (1 credit) – Orientation course that 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 consumer interest.
Agriculture and the Environment (2-3 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 sustainability and the protection of natural resources.
Food Law & Policy (1-3 credits) – An introduction to the network of laws that govern our food system. An overview of regulation by both the Food & Drug Administration and the USDA is provided. Policy considerations are discussed in light of current issues.
Federal Farm Programs and Crop Insurance (1-2 credits) – Survey of the complex network of federal farm programs and federal crop insurance programs that are available to U.S. producers.
Agricultural Perspectives (2 credits) – 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. The course includes a series of documentaries.
Advanced Writing in Agricultural & Food Law (1-4 credits) – Research in a specialized area of agricultural or food law and development of a paper that demonstrates rigorous legal analysis and quality legal writing.
Note that 24 credits of residential, specialized LL.M. courses will continue to be offered each year.In addition to the required courses listed above, electives will be selected from the list of specialized courses described below.
Administrative Process and Practice in Agricultural & Food Law ( 1 credit) – Study of administrative law & practice in the specialized areas of agricultural and food law.Relevant regulatory agencies are introduced.Rulemaking, adjudication, and judicial review are covered.
Agricultural Bankruptcy (1-2 credits) – Examination of bankruptcy law as applied to agricultural operations, including Chapter 12 – Family Farmer Reorganization. No prior knowledge of bankruptcy is required.
Agricultural Biotechnology (1-2 credits) – Study of the regulation of agricultural biotechnology, including the approval process for new technologies, the patenting of new products and technologies, and the restrictions associated with their use.
Agricultural Cooperatives and Local Food Systems (1 credit) - Introduction to the legal structure of a cooperative and examination of the recent use of the cooperative model in encouraging local and regional food systems
Agricultural Finance & Credit (1-3 credits) - Study of the legal issues surrounding the financing of agricultural operations, including credit availability, agricultural security issues under the Uniform Commercial Code, and debt restructuring opportunities. Special focus is on lending options offered by the Farm Service Agency and the Farm Credit System.
Agricultural Labor Law (1-2 credits) - Study of the legal, social, and economic issues that arise from the extensive use of migrant labor in U.S. agricultural operations. Topics include agricultural exemptions from labor laws, the Migrant & Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, and agriculture’s reliance on undocumented alien workers.
Agricultural Policy & the Federal Budget (1 credit) – Study of the impact of the Office of Management and Budget and the cost scoring system on federal agricultural policy making in Washington, D.C.Current farm policy issues are discussed within the context of budgetary constraints and pressures.
Agricultural Water Law (1-2 credits) – Study of the basic legal principles applicable to water rights through consideration of water rights for agricultural use.
Energy Policy & Agriculture(1 credit) – Survey of the legal dimensions of various energy issues occurring on agricultural lands and in rural areas, including wind power, solar power, ethanol production, power line transmission, and fracking.
Environmental Regulation of Agriculture (2 credits) – This course examines the major federal environmental statutes applicable to agricultural operations with attention to current cases and controversies under those laws.It also explores the regulatory authority and enforcement practices of the EPA and other agencies.
Farmed Animal Welfare Law & Policy (1-2 credits) – Examination of the legal issues involved in determining welfare standards for animals raised for food.In addition to introducing federal animal welfare and humane slaughter laws, state referenda, state law standards, and so-called “ag gag” laws are studied.
Federal Nutrition Law & Policy (1-2 credits) – Study of federal nutrition policy, including the development of the federal nutrition standards, the framework for the food assistance programs, the federal school lunch program, and the government’s efforts to encourage healthy eating.
Federal Regulation of Food Labeling (2 credits) – Study of the federal laws regarding the labeling of food, considering both FDA and USDA regulation. The course includes the study of nutrition labeling, health claims, advertising issues, and efforts to curb the obesity epidemic through educational labeling.
Federal Regulation of Food Safety (2 credits) - Study of the federal laws that regulate food safety, considering the FDA authority under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, as expanded by the Food Safety Modernization Act and USDA authority to regulate meat and poultry safety. Current issues and concerns are addressed.
Food Justice: Law & Policy (1-2 credits) - Survey of the legal and policy issues raised by the food justice movement. Topics covered include food insecurity and poverty, public health concerns such as obesity, the economics of healthy eating, food deserts, and food waste.
Food Safety Litigation (1-2 credits) – Examination of food borne illness litigation with an initial introduction to food product liability followed by the study of actual cases brought against food manufacturers
Food, Farming & Sustainability (1-3 credits) – Survey of the complex legal topics that make up the body of agricultural and food law focusing on current issues of significance.
Global Food Security (1-2 credits) - Survey of the role of law and policy in affecting problems of global food security in the face of increasing population, changing diets, environmental pressures, and climate change.
Independent Research in Agricultural & Food Law (1-2 credits) – Independent research in agricultural and food law conducted under the supervision of a faculty member.
Introduction to Agricultural Income Taxation (1 credit) – Overview of federal income tax law as applied to agricultural operations.
Legal Issues: Indigenous Food & Agriculture (1-3 credits) – This course examines the complex interaction of tribal law, treaties, and federal agricultural and food laws, including property law applicable to tribal lands.
Specialized Legal Research and Writing (1 credit) - Legal writing skill development, including training in plain-English legal writing, electronic research training, and publication strategies.
Local/Regional Food Systems & the Law (1-2 credits) – This course examines recent efforts to re-establish local and regional food systems and explores the attendant legal and policy issues.
Regulated Markets in Agriculture (1-2 credits) – Study of the economic regulation of specific sectors of the agricultural industry focusing on perishable agricultural commodities (fruits & vegetables), and dairy products. Included is the study of formal and informal administrative review.
Regulation of Livestock Marketing & Sales (1 credit) – Study of the regulation of livestock and poultry sales under the Packers and Stockyards Act, with a particular focus on production contracting, mandatory price reporting, industry concentration, and anti-trust issues.
Selected Issues in Agricultural and Food Law (1-3 credits) – Specialized study of one or more current issues in agricultural and food law, regulation, and policy
Selected Issues in International Food & Agriculture (1-3 credits) – Specialized study of one or more current legal or policy issues related to international agriculture and food systems
Urban Agriculture: Law & Policy (1 credit) – Study of the legal issues raised by the rising interest in urban agricultural activities.Topics of study include land use and zoning issues, farmers market issues, and legal issues associated with community sponsored agriculture.
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.