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Hamilton, Neil D.

Published onAug 04, 2021
Hamilton, Neil D.

(January 22, 1954 – )

Quick Facts

Alumnus Neil Hamilton served as assistant attorney general from 1979-1981 and established one of the nation’s first agricultural law centers at Drake University in 1983.

Born and raised on a 200-acre family farm north of Lenox, Neil D. Hamilton has become internationally known for his pioneering work in the field of agricultural law. He received a BS in forestry and economics from Iowa State University in 1976. Two of his major contributions came shortly after he received his law degree from the University of Iowa, helping develop the agricultural law LLM program through the University of Arkansas and establishing one of the nation’s first agricultural law centers at Drake University in 1983.

The timing for Hamilton’s law center, during the farm credit crisis, was strategic. At about the same time tougher environmental laws were enacted and property rights controversies emerged as important issues. Hamilton also served on the Advisory Board for the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and as president of the American Agricultural Law Association.

Hamilton became an award-winning writer of books and articles educating on agricultural law, and still frequently pens editorials for the Des Moines Register on legal topics in agriculture. An article in 2010 highlights Hamilton in the framework of his influence in the spheres of media, politics and corporations nearly 27 years after forming the center. His involvement in a landmark water quality case and his name on the short list for U.S. Secretary of Agriculture in 2008 have kept Hamilton in the state and national spotlight for sustainable agriculture. He has authored books and articles on agricultural and environmental law. Hamilton wrote "The Food Chain", a column in the Des Moines Register.

Hamilton has also traveled internationally, taking his students at Drake University to Cuba to study agricultural law reforms and to Copenhagen, Denmark for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2009. His courses are often one of the first of their kind, whether it be wind law to concepts of rural development and related legal issues such as the challenges of rural America, the impact of the 2007 farm bill and the roles of natural resources, traditional rural development programs offered by the USDA and local natural resource agencies such as county conservation boards.

Hamilton retired from leading the Ag Law Center after 36 years in 2019, however he still has an office at Drake University and will be an emeritus professor.[1]

Selections of text republished with permission from Iowans who made a difference: 150 years of agricultural progress by Don Muhm and Virginia Wadsley, published by the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, 1996.

Selected Sources

Drake University, staff profile.

By Hamilton:

  • A Farmer’s Guide to Production Contracts (1995)

  • What Farmers Need to Know About Environmental Law

  • "How Industrialization is Restructuring Food Production", Leopold Letter (vol. 6, nos. 1,2)

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