The National Sea Grant Law Center


  • Agriculture and Food Law Consortium

  • The Agricultural & Food Law Consortium was a national, multi-institutional collaboration that operated from 2014 to 2019. It was 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 was one of four founding members of the Consortium and contributes expertise on a range of topics including, aquaculture, fisheries, invasive species, and water quality and quantity.

  • Research Projects:

  • Invasive Species Councils
    According to the Environmental Law Institute (ELI)—a preeminent source for environmentally centered legal analysis—states with invasive species councils are better prepared to implement and enforce state laws and programs aimed at the prevention, control, and management of invasive species. However, state laws addressing invasive species councils vary in content and stringency from state-to-state, potentially limiting their effectiveness. Partially in response to this issue, ELI developed a model law approximately fifteen years ago that is meant to inform policy decisions related to invasive species management in the United States. In response to this forward-thinking document and considering that more than a decade has passed since its publication, the National Sea Grant Law Center (NSGLC) decided to examine how closely state law mirrors the invasive species council-specific recommendations made in the model.

    Invasive Species Councils: The Pervasiveness of Model Language in State Law

    Invasive Species Councils (Appendix only)

  • Pesticide Use
    The use of pesticides in commercial aquaculture is intended to limit populations of harmful organisms and enable farmed shellfish and finfish to grow to maturity, after which they can be harvested and safely sold to consumers. However, when pesticides and herbicides enter aquatic systems, the environmental costs can be high. Because of this, some states and municipalities have enacted laws and policies restricting the aquatic use of certain pesticides and herbicides—creating policy tensions between the aquaculture industry and environmental advocates along the way. In response to this issue, the National Sea Grant Law Center created a report that provides a brief overview of the legal framework governing pesticide and herbicide use in the commercial aquaculture industry, with a focus on Washington—the state currently at the epicenter of the policy debate.

    Legal Barriers to Pesticide and Herbicide Use in Commercial Aquaculture

    As concerns about the potential negative health effects of pesticides continue to grow, county and local governments are increasingly passing legislation to restrict or outright ban the use of pesticides within their borders. With the increasing amount of regulatory action on the local level, the question then becomes, what authority do county and local governments have to regulate pesticides? In response to this issue, the National Sea Grant Law Center produced a document providing an overview of the split among federal, state, and local authority under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, known as FIFRA.

    State and Local Regulation of Pesticides: What Does FIFRA Allow?

  • Mississippi River Flooding Impacts on Crops and Aquaculture
    Over the past few months, pounding rains have cause the Mississippi River to flood at levels that have not been seen for 90 years, causing wide ranging impacts. Throughout the Mississippi River basin, farmland has been flooded for months. For farmers, the river flooding has delayed or prevented crop planting. Further, freshwater diversions into the Mississippi Sound to relieve river levels have negatively affected the Sound’s natural resources, including oyster aquaculture producers. The National Sea Grant Law Center has researched this issue and produced a series of fact sheets that provide an overview of crop insurance and two USDA disaster programs available to aquaculture operators.

    Crop Insurance and Mississippi River Flooding: Basic Overview

    Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Programs:
              Aquaculture Provisions

    The Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program and Aquaculture

  • Recirculating Aquaculture
    As wild fish populations dwindle and the negative environmental impacts of more traditional aquaculture methods are brought to light, large recirculating aquaculture facilities raising marine species have begun to pop up in many places around the United States. This newfound popularity brings with it multiple legal considerations, many of which the aquaculture community may not be familiar which. In response to this issue, the National Sea Grant Law Center created a report that aims to increase awareness among the aquaculture community about the legal challenges impacting the success of the land-based marine aquaculture sector as it exists in the United States, both currently and into the future.

    Legal Issues and Challenges Confronting Recirculating Aquaculture Systems in the U.S.

  • Commercial Seaweed Aquaculture
    In recent years, the United States has begun to foster growth of a domestic seaweed aquaculture industry, with hopes that resulting food products may compete with those imported from larger Asian and European markets. However, due to a lack of applicable, federal regulation, states are left to determine how to regulate the sale of whole-form seaweed through their own statutes and administrative regulations, which vary widely in scope, content, and applicability. Consequently, it is necessary to understand the differing elements of such state rules, as they can greatly impact the potential success of a commercial seaweed aquaculture operation. In response to this need, the National Sea Grant Law Center (NSGLC) conducted an inventory of applicable statutes and regulations in states that either currently permit commercial seaweed aquaculture or have taken steps to facilitate such in the future.

    Inventory of State Laws Affecting Commercial Seaweed Aquaculture

  • 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

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)