Legal Guide for Farm Marketers

Final Report for ENC97-020

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 1997: $36,250.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2000
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $20,000.00
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Neil Hamilton
Drake University Law School
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Project Information


The goal of the project was to develop, research, write and publish a comprehensive legal guide for farmers and agricultural professionals addressing issues associated with direct farm marketing. The project required addressing issues associated with direct farm marketing. The project required extensive research and analysis of the legal constraints relating to direct farm marketing and a thorough understanding of the legal environment in which it operates. The research provided the basis for developing and drafting the book. The Legal Guide for Direct Farm Marketing, was published in July 1999 by Drake University (ISBN # 0-9671556-0-6). It includes twelve chapters:

Chapter One- An Introduction to Direct Farm Marketing and the Law.
Chapter Two- How Law Relates to Direct Farm Marketing
Chapter Three – An Introduction to the Common Forms of Direct Farm Marketing.
Chapter Four – Farmers Markets
Chapter Five – Organizing and Operating a Direct Farm Marketing Business
Chapter Six- Contracts, Food Stamps, and Getting Paid
Chapter Seven – Marketing Your Products
Chapter Eight – Land Use and property Law
Chapter Nine – Labor and Employment
Chapter Ten – Insurance and Liability Issues
Chapter Eleven – Marketing High Value Products and Processed Foods
Chapter Twelve – Marketing Meat, Poultry, Eggs and Dairy Products

The book is 235 pages long (fifty percent longer than originally proposed) and was written to serve as a teaching tool for agricultural professionals as well as a learning device for farmers. The book includes numerous checklists and other teaching devices to make it useful as an educational training resource. It includes thirty-six sidebars providing examples of real disputes, court cases, and state and local laws to illustrate the discussion. There are eighteen highlighted boxes of information containing examples of legal form and laws or providing concise discussions of issues. There are seventeen different sets of questions or checklists of steps to follow relating to specific topics. The book includes a fifty state appendix containing names and address of over 350 contacts in state government and education who can provide resource information for direct farm marketers.

The book has received strong and uniformly positive responses from farmers, government officials, educators and others who have seen it. To date over 1500 copies have been sold and distributed to audiences of farmers, extension agents, governmental officials, lawyers, and educators. The book has been used in educational programs around the country including: the SARE direct marketing conference in Lincoln, in November, 1999; the American Agricultural Law Association conference in New Orleans in October, 2000; and the in-service extension training held at the North American Farmers Direct Marketing Association meeting in Cincinnati in February 2000. Research on direct farm marketing led the author to develop a one credit law school class on “Legal Issues in Direct Farm Marketing,” which was offered at Drake University in July 1998 and 1999 and at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville in August 1999. Additional training sessions featuring the book, are being scheduled, including one for Iowa extension agents in September 2000. The book has been reviewed favorably in a variety of agricultural publications and newsletters, including Growing for Market and Successful Farming.

Project Objectives:

• To identify the practical legal and regulatory questions dealing with the direct marketing of fruits, vegetables, meat poultry and other foods.
• To fill the void faced by producers, USDA employees, and other agricultural advisors, resulting from the current lack of sources available to obtain answers to such questions.
• To publish a legal guide book, developed in cooperation with an advisory committee of farmers, marketers, and agricultural officials, which answers the most commonly asked questions producers and advisors have relating to direct farm marketing.
• To conduct two regional training sessions for key agricultural officials to determine how best to use the book in advising and educating farmers involved in direct marketing.
• To develop a set of teaching materials and curriculum guide, which, along with a quantity of the books, will be delivered to each state.

Education & Outreach Initiatives



The first 15 months of the project were occupied with the research and drafting of the book. This process proceeded in an orderly fashion and involved the following steps:

-completing background research on direct marketing to identify the most significant legal issues involved and those about which there is little available information;

-outlining the proposed chapters and categories, expanding and refining original proposal;

-collecting research material and other sources within the different topic areas, including contact with SARE and Extension personnel in each state;

-conducting original research to identify additional cases, state laws, local regulations and other examples of how law relates to the various subjects;

-developing draft outlines for each chapter;

-developing a questionnaire used with the advisory committee to identify the issues they feel are most important for inclusion in the book;

-developing lists of questions and answers for farmers in each substantive chapter;

-developing a master set of sidebars, boxes and other examples which will be located throughout the book;

-development of checklists and other sets of guidelines for inclusion within the chapters;

-compiling the state resource information to include in the appendix;

-drafting the chapters and editing for consistent tone, voice and coverage

The last nine months of the project involved completing the drafting of the chapters, working with the book designer to finalize the layout of the book, and completing the final editing stages prior to publication. During the editing and review process, draft chapters were circulated to many of the people on the advisory committee for the project and to several members of the SARE staff. Their input was helpful both in identifying issues which needed to be addressed and in insuring the text and discussion was understandable by non-lawyers.

It should be noted that the time and effort required to complete all of these steps increased due to the expansion of the book beyond the 160 pages estimated in the original grant. Rather than shorten the project and the legal coverage to that size as would have been possible, the project was expanded to provide for thorough discussion of the issues the author believed required treatment. The SARE staff helped facilitate the expansion of the project by approving several budget reallocations which allowed funds to be moved from other categories to cover the increased printing and publication costs associated with publishing a much longer and hopefully more valuable book.

Outreach and Publications

Shortly after the book was published more than 75 copies were distributed to individuals who had helped in the research and as review copies for educators and those in the media. In addition over 200 copies were provided to SARE officials and to others in the USDA for promotion and use. A supply of copies were provided to Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman who has distributed copies to some members of his staff, to Deputy Secretary Richard Rominger, and to the direct marketing staff in the Agricultural Marketing Service. In addition the author provided copies to the other eighteen members of the new Small Farms Advisory Committee and to the eleven members of the 21st Century Production Agriculture Commission.

As part of the drafting process, teaching materials were developed for use in training and educating agricultural professionals. These include a 50 slide Power Point presentation addressing the main issues involved in the project. This presentation was used for a talk at the 1998 North American Farmer Direct Marketing Association Annual Meeting in Victoria, British Columbia, in late February 1998. This presentation led to further requests for training sessions, including one on February 5, 1999, as part of the Center for Sustainable Agricultural Systems at the University of Nebraska’s 1999 seminar series “Re-integrating Agriculture and community in the Midwest.”

Outcomes and impacts:

The primary outcome is the book is written and available. Marketing and promotion of the book is still in the early stages and will expand as word of mouth comments and availability becomes more widespread. The book has proven to be extremely valuable for many readers and has served as a flexible and understandable teaching resource. The book has also served to promote the work of the SARE program on a local and national basis.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.