Agriculture refers to the acts of farming and raising livestock. Activities that fall within agriculture include soil preparation, seed planting, crop harvesting, gardening, viticulture (growing grapes), apiculture (bee-raising), dairying, poultry, and ranching. Generally, laws grouped under the heading "agricultural law" relate to these activities as they are carried out in a commercial setting.
There are numerous federal statutes that subsidize, regulate, or otherwise directly affect agricultural activity. Several focus on agricultural workers: The Federal Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act provides protection for migrant and seasonal agricultural workers. 42 U.S.C. §§ 1471 et seq. provides for financial assistance to farmers and others for the construction or improvement of farm housing and other agriculturally related purposes. Non-statutory federal regulations are controlled by the Department of Agriculture.
Some states have also passed their own statutes relating to agriculture production. For example, Arizona has a statute restricting the use of certain pesticides due to their adverse effects on human health and the environment. Every state also has some form of an agricultural lien statute to mitigate risks of nonpayment in the agricultural sector.
While subject to the aforementioned regulations, the agricultural industry also enjoys a collection of legal exemptions and privileges targeted at the continued profitability of food production in the United States. In particular, the agricultural industry is exempt from compliance with many provisions in the nation’s major environmental statutes, the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and CERCLA.
[Last updated in June of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]
menu of sources
U.S. Constitution and Federal Statutes
- 7 U.S.C. - Agriculture
- CRS Annotated Constitution
- 7 C.F.R. - Agriculture
Federal Judicial Decisions
- U.S. Supreme Court:
- U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals: Recent Decisions on Agriculture
State Judicial Decisions
- N.Y. Court of Appeals:
- Appellate Decisions from Other States
Key Internet Sources
- U.S. Dep't of Agric. (USDA)
- Cong. Comms.
- State Agencies
- Nat'l Agric. Library
- AgEcon Search: Research in Agric. Econs.
Useful Offnet (or Subscription - $) Sources
- Good Starting Points in Print:
- Neil H. Harl, Agricultural Law, Matthew Bender and Co. Inc., New York, New York (1980, with updates)
- Pedersen & Meyer, Agricultural Law in a Nutshell, West Group, (1995)