Introduction: Divergent Views on Agriculture in American Law and Society

This introductory talk is somewhat the equivalent of an overture to an opera. There are several purposes for an overture. First it sets a general mood for the rest of performance. Second, it may state important themes that will reoccur throughout the performance. We all know, however, that the real reason for an overture or an introduction is to ensure that people who come in late will not miss anything important.

One may look at agriculture from a number of different views. I imagine with this audience the appropriate way of looking at agriculture is as a business. Much of agricultural law does indeed concentrate on income related issues. So, for instance, there is much to be said legally about the formation of agricultural cooperatives, farm and equipment leases, futures trading and commodities exchanges. Bankruptcy and other credit issues are particularly important in agriculture these days, not only concerning farmers and ranchers, but of course, respecting grain elevators as well. We have in our program today two speakers who predominately focus on what I call the “business related aspects” of agriculture. Dr. Neil Harl will be talking about “debtor distress”, and Professor Keith Meyers will address issues involving agricultural financing under the Uniform Commercial Code.

As one looks at the commercial potential of agriculture, however, much of the focus is on more than the individuals engaged in commercial enterprises. Recently there has been quite a floodlight trained on agriculture as a subject of international trade.’ For example, when there are Soviet grain sales, there is always wide press coverage. This afternoon agricultural trade issues will be addressed. Another current issue with international implications for agriculture is the controversy in Congress regarding immigration legislation. Migrant farm workers, of course, would be significantly and directly affected, but there are also clearly foreign policy implications, particularly with our neighbor, Mexico.

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Amy K. Kelley, Introduction: Divergent Views on Agriculture in American Law and Society, 20 Gonz. L. Rev. 629 (1985).

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