Since the botched Hudson case, good things have been happening with ag law in Maryland. Over the decades, farmers across the nation have seen a steady increase in regulatory requirements pertaining to environmental protection, food safety, labor and so on. However, family farms don’t have legal teams to analyze new laws and the impacts on their operations. They focus on growing things.
As published in the Maryland Reporter, Governor O’Malley and the legislature were angry at the way the University of Maryland Law Clinic handled the case. The state budgeted $250,000 for the University of Maryland system to create an agriculture law clinic.
A new direction in supporting Maryland farmers was evident as the 2014
American Agricultural Law Association Northeast Regional Conference opened on June 6th at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law in Baltimore. The first session featured Valerie Connelly, Executive Director of the Maryland Farm Bureau and Sophia Kruszewski, Policy Specialist at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) in the Legislative and Case Law Update. Valerie provided a Maryland legislative update and Sophia highlighted the features of the 2014 Farm Bill for the attorneys in attendance who specialize in agricultural law in the region.
Session 2 was titled TMDLs and CAFOs: What is happening in the Northeast. It covered the outcome of the Hudson case and related cases resulting from enforcement of Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) of pollutants and other nutrient runoff issues.
Session 3 was an Overview of Employment and Labor Law for the Farm and Agri-Business. Attorneys Karen E. Eichman and Arthur N. Reed have extensive experience in labor law cases and they advised the attorneys in the room as to how to protect their farm clients from claims in labor law.
Session 4 was Keeping Our COOL: How is COOL being Implemented. Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) gets complicated when livestock is grown in one country and slaughtered and processed in others. Deborah Shuff led the attorneys through the changes in the law over the last few years. USDA published a proposed rule May 13th that would require the products to be documented at each stage of the life of the animal.
Session 5 was Impact of Government Regulations On Farming Operations. Attorney John Dillard led attendees through a wide variety of farm issues, including drones, food labeling and the first amendment, the renewable fuels standard, and Osha and grain bins.
Paul Goeringer, an attorney with the Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics at the University of Maryland, chaired the committee that organized the conference. He also authored Lease Agreements and recently started the Maryland Agriculture Law Blog, an outreach project by the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics to “provide readers updates on court decisions, regulations, and other legal news important to the Maryland agriculture community.” He also works with the Agricultural Law Education Initiative, which just published A Guide to Agricultural Labor Laws: How Best to Comply with the Relevant Federal and Maryland State Standards. Meanwhile, the Maryland State Bar Association’s Special Committee on Agriculture Law has established a 2014 Legal Services Directory.
These are all great steps toward better informing and assisting Maryland’s farmers!