Looking for answers to agriculture-related legal issues in the Mid-South? If so, you should know that the first annual Agricultural Law Conference is kicking off on May 16 at Harrah’s Casino in Tunica, Miss.

The conference will be co-hosted by the National Agricultural Law Center at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and the National Sea Grant Law Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law.

“This is the first annual conference of this kind,” says Harrison Pittman, director of the National Agricultural Law Center. “We wanted to respond to a need communicated to us for (attorneys’) Continuing Legal Education on issues that are more relevant to attorneys based in rural areas.

“There are a lot of attorneys in the Mid-South that work, or want to work, with farm clients on a variety of emerging areas that range from crop insurance, farm bill issues, leases, environmental law and other things.”

Pittman says the National Agricultural Law Center has “longstanding formal partnership” with the National Sea Grant Law Center. “We’ve partnered with them and the Arkansas Bar Association on this.

“Besides having a good agenda, we want to lay the framework for a follow-up conference in the next year. The more the merrier.”

While this conference does provide legal education credit for Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana attorneys, everyone is welcome. Attorneys in other states are welcome to get in touch with Pittman and “we’ll work to get them (continuing education) credits, as well.

“We’ve designed this so that anyone involved in agriculture — ag lenders, businessmen — will find it very pertinent.”

The agenda includes:

• Litigating federal crop insurance disputes: overview and discussion of important practical pointers and pitfalls.

“Crop insurance has always been important but it’s becoming even more so with the new farm bill. The trend says it will be more of a mainstay for production agriculture and we’ll have attorney Grant Ballard discuss this issue with us.

“This has some pitfalls for landowners, farmers and attorneys who represent folks who have a crop insurance claim denied. It’s pretty complicated when you get into the legal weeds.”

• Agricultural leases for Mid-South farmers, lenders, and landlords.

“We want to look at some of the nuts and bolts of leases. But the desire is also to factor in what it means with respect to the loss of direct payments in the farm bill. What will that mean to how landowners and farmers interact?

“We’ll have Bill Bridgforth, Cal McCastlain, and Trav Baxter, all attorneys with extensive ag law experience present on this area of law.”

• The Gulf dead zone and Gulf restoration v. EPA: what it means for agriculture in the Mississippi River Basin.

“We’ll be looking at the Gulf restoration case filed in Louisiana claiming that EPA water quality standards should be numeric. The plaintiffs want them to do that for the Mississippi River Basin. With agricultural run-off in the mix, it’s very important. This is a huge issue for farmers and communities in the Mississippi River Basin and we’re fortunate to have John Milner discuss and answer questions on this issue.”

• Hot topics in invasive species management: Lacey Act reform, biofuels, and more.

“The Lacey Act has been huge recently, and will continue to be an important factor for aquaculture in the Mid-South.  The same is true for invasive species and biofuels industry.  Our partner Stephanie Showalter, director of the National Sea Grant Law Center will present on those issues.”

• Food security: technology and ethics.

“We’re very lucky to have Professor Drew Kershen, the Earl Sneed Centennial Professor of Law at the University of Oklahoma College of Law traveling over to present on this area. Professor Kershen is one of the most prominent agricultural lawyers in the field, so having him on the agenda speaks volumes about the quality of the conference.”

• Nuisance lawsuits and right-to-farm laws for Mid-South agriculture and aquaculture.

“National Agricultural Law Center Senior Staff Attorney Rusty Rumley has done as much if not more research and writing on this topic than anyone in the country.  This is a big-time issue for communities, farmers, and policymakers involved in Mid-South agriculture.”

The conference agenda, hotel information and more.

Contact Pittman at: hmpittm@uark.edu