The National Sea Grant Law Center


  • Agriculture and Food Law Consortium

  • The Agricultural & Food Law Consortium is a national, multi-institutional collaboration designed to enhance and expand the development and delivery of authoritative, timely, and objective agricultural and food law research and information. This information is available to the nation’s vast agricultural community of producers, attorneys, state and federal policymakers, Cooperative Extension Service professionals, and others at the local, state, regional, and national levels. Agricultural law and food law includes law related to land-based food, fiber, and energy production systems, as well as seafood and marine-based aquaculture. The National Sea Grant Law Center is one of four founding members of the Consortium and contributes expertise on a range of topics including, aquaculture, fisheries, and water quality and quantity.

  • Consortium Members

  • National Agricultural Law Center The Ohio State University Penn State Law National Sea Grant Law Center

  • Research Projects:

  • Organic Aquaculture
    Traditionally, the organic market has been largely dominated by terrestrial farmers, with the aquaculture industry producing a lower diversity and quantity of organically certified products. While numerous countries have taken steps in recent years to facilitate the growth of organic aquaculture, the United States seems to have stalled in its progress. As a result, U.S. aquaculturists are presently left without a way to access the organic aquaculture market and the increased profits it can yield. In response to this issue, the National Sea Grant Law Center created a report detaining the present state of organic aquaculture in the United States as well as the implications that future promulgation of organic aquaculture standards could have on the domestic industry.

    The State of Organic Aquaculture in the United States

  • Genetically Modified Organisms and Aquaculture
    As the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) becomes more pervasive in terrestrial agriculture, the aquaculture industry has expressed interest in utilizing genetic modification to increase both the sustainability and productivity of commercial farms. However, GMOs are a topic of controversy and public debate in the United States, with many condemning the idea of raising, marketing, and consuming fish and shellfish created using the technology. In response to this controversy, the National Sea Grant Law Center has created a report examining the current role of GMOs in aquaculture, the U.S. regulations governing product labeling and sale, and the factors driving the future of genetically modified fish and shellfish marketed domestically.

    Genetically Modified Organisms in Aquaculture: From Present to Future

  • Endangered Species Act
    Recently, there have been several interesting issues emerging from the interactions of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and agricultural operations. However, the Act’s terms and how the different sections work together can be confusing for those who are unfamiliar with the ESA. The National Sea Grant Law Center has performed research concerning recent developments concerning the ESA and prepared fact sheets providing an overview of the major provisions of the Act.

    Endangered Species Act Overview

    Endangered Species Act Section 4: Listing and Critical Habitat Designation

    Endangered Species Act Section 7: Interagency Consultation

    Endangered Species Act Section 9: Take

  • Invasive Species and Aquaculture
    Many of the most popular species cultivated on aquaculture farms throughout the United States are non-native to most, if not all states, including such staples as tilapia, Atlantic salmon, and Pacific oysters. As a result, aquaculture can easily become a pathway for the introduction of non-native species to new environments. In response to this problem, the National Sea Grant Law Center has created a report and infographic detailing state methodologies for preventing the influx of non-native, cultured species into new areas as well as strategies aquaculture stakeholders can utilize to do the same.

    Regulating Invasive Species in Aquaculture Report

  • Groundwater
    Agricultural water use from the Mississippi River Valley Alluvial (MRVA) Aquifer exceeds long term recharge rates and is resulting in declines of aquifer water levels. Water levels are also declining in the Sparta Aquifer, which is the aquifer in dispute in the Mississippi v. Tennessee case before the U.S. Supreme Court. The NSGLC has performed research into the water laws of states in the region that make use of each of these aquifers.

    Aquifer Comparison Report

  • Zoning and Shellfish Aquaculture
    With the commercial aquaculture industry rapidly growing in size and popularity in the United States, shellfish aquaculturists often encounter barriers outside of typical permitting and leasing difficulties. Local laws can pose real challenges for aquaculture stakeholders, as they vary from state-to-state and municipality-to-municipality. Zoning, in particular, is one category in which shellfish aquaculturists often encounter the most trouble. In response to this issue, the National Sea Grant Law Center has created a “Zoning 101” guide that educates stakeholders regarding zoning law in general as well as local zoning challenges commonly encountered in the shellfish aquaculture industry.

    Zoning 101 Guide

  • Animal Welfare and Aquaculture
    Animal welfare, while not universally defined, supports the humane and responsible use of animals by humans. While there is currently no federal law governing animal welfare for fish in the United States, the issue is garnering more attention as the aquaculture industry becomes more prevalent domestically. In response, the National Sea Grant Law Center has hosted a webinar and produced a “quick takes” document that, together, provide aquaculture stakeholders with basic information on animal welfare for farmed fish.

    Animal Welfare and Aquaculture "Quick Takes"

  • State Right-to-Farm Legislation
    Twenty-six states expressly include aquaculture operations or fish within the scope of their Right-to-Farm protections, while one additional state has manifested its intent to shield such operations from nuisance liability by implementing agricultural management practice requirements. The National Sea Grant Law Center has compiled an inventory of the key provisions in these laws and prepared state-specific fact sheets to provide aquaculture stakeholders with basic information on legal protections for nuisance claims.

    Right-to-Farm 101 for Aquaculture Stakeholders (individual states listed)

    Comparison of State Right-to-Farm Laws that Include Aquaculture

  • Nutrient Management
    Science points to runoff from agricultural fields as a cause of elevated levels of nitrogen and phosphorous in our nation’s waterways, leading to harmful algal blooms, hypoxia and other water quality issues, including the impairment of drinking water supplies. The National Sea Grant Law Center tracks federal legal developments with respect to nutrient management and has produced a series of fact sheets that provide an overview of key issues and statutes.

    Local Governments and Nutrient Pollution

    Harmful Algal Blooms and Drinking Water

    Harmful Algal Blooms and Water Quality

    The Management of Nonpoint Source Pollution under the Clean Water Act

  • Direct Marketing
    Aquaculture producers seeking to diversify their businesses through direct marketing will encounter a confusing, and at times contradictory, maze of federal, state, and local food safety, tax, and environmental laws. The legal framework for direct sales of aquaculture products is further complicated by the differing treatment of freshwater and marine species, both of which are cultured in Alabama. In 2014, the National Sea Grant Law Center received funding from the Southern Risk Management Education Center to conduct legal research and outreach to support aquaculture producers in Alabama looking for ways to diversity their business with direct marketing opportunities. The National Sea Grant Law Center organized a workshop, hosted a series of webinars, and developed a Legal Guide for Direct Marketing Aquaculture Products in Alabama. To learn more about this work, visit our project page at:

    At the request of NOAA Fisheries, the NSGLC collaborated with the Planning Committee of the National Summit on Community Supported Fisheries, held in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, May 30 – June 1, 2012, to produce a resource guide for fishermen. Starting and Maintaining Community Supported Fishery (CSF) Programs: A Resource Guide for Fishermen and Fishing Communities provides general information to assist fishermen and fishing communities with starting and/or maintaining a Community Supported Fishery (CSF). The guide is available for download at

  • Mid-South Agricultural and Environmental Law Conference

  • Agriculture in the Mid-South is uniquely impacted by changes and developments in state, federal, and international laws and policies. Each year, the Consortium organizes and hosts the “Mid-South Agricultural and Environmental Law Conference” to provide relevant and timely agricultural and environmental legal research and information to attorneys, lenders, accountants, tax consultants, students and other agricultural professionals involved in the agriculture and aquaculture industries in the southern U.S.  

    The Fifth Annual Mid-South Agricultural and Environmental Law Conference was held at the University of Memphis Cecil M. Humphreys School of Law in Memphis, Tennessee on June 7-8, 2018. For more information on the conference, please visit:  

Questions About Projects?

Have questions or comments about projects at the National Sea Grant Law Center?
Feel free to contact us!

Call or fax us at:
662-915-5267 (fax)