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December 2016 Update

Second Annual Agriculture and Environmental Law Conference a Success

The ALEI team hosted its second annual Agriculture and Environmental Law Conference on November 18, with more than 140 guests at the Doubletree Hotel in Annapolis, MD, for a day of discussion on a variety of agricultural and environmental legal topics affecting Delmarva’s farmers.

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The morning presentations kicked off with a panel of experts discussing agritourism and zoning compliance. E. Randy Marriner shared his experiences navigating both county and state laws in establishing an on-farm brewery in Ellicott City. According to Les Knapp, Jr., Maryland Association of Counties, and Kevin Atticks of Grow & Fortify, incorporating agritourism into zoning codes has proven challenging for local jurisdictions. Until zoning codes are amended to both define and permit agritourism uses, operators will continue to face legal challenges in this arena.

Other morning presentations included a panel on water quality which included details from Jason Keppler on the upcoming Phase III of the Watershed Implementation Plan; the economics of nutrient trading by Dr. Dave Newburn; and cascading water treatment technology from farmer and innovator Sam Owings.

ALEI Legal Specialist Sarah Everhart and Justine Beaulieu of the University of Maryland taught conference attendees about the standards and proper testing technique for agricultural water subject to the Food Safety Modernization Act. Everhart explained that the Food Safety Modernization Act, the most sweeping food safety legislation in over 70 years, has changed food safety regulation from reactive to preventive, and farmers will be the key to the act’s successful implementation.

Paul Goeringer, ALEI Extension Legal Specialist, joined Vice President of Litigation for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation Jon Mueller in a roundup of the year’s hottest agriculture and environmental law topics. In addition to providing an informative recap of this year’s interesting issues, Goeringer advised conference attendees to keep an eye out in 2017 for new law and policy regarding pesticide drift and the Sygenta class action lawsuit, issues which Goeringer has detailed in the Maryland Risk Management Education blog.

One of the highlights of the day was the keynote panel featuring Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Joseph Bartenfelder, Maryland Secretary of Environment Ben Grumbles, and Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee. The Secretaries shared their thoughts on how our region can achieve its water quality protection goals while preserving Delmarva’s agriculture industry. In answering the thematic question, Secretary Grumbles provided that every sector needs a customized approach and agriculture needs to be regulated differently than other sectors in order to allow agriculture to thrive while protecting Bay water quality. Grumbles went on to explain that Maryland needs regional standards and neighborhood solutions to achieve improved health for the Bay.

ALEI Extension Legal Specialist Ashley Ellixson led a panel on Alternative Energy on the Farm along with dairy farmer Sean Jones and alternative energy advocate Rebecca Rush. Ellixson advised farmers to negotiate terms alternative energy leases to protect themselves and future generations.

The day concluded with Dwight Dotterer, Nutrient Management Program Administrator, providing a thorough outline of the latest nutrient management programs and initiatives. In detailing the current status of the Phosphorus Management Tool (PMT), Dotterer explained the Maryland Department of Agriculture estimates that 82% of the total statewide agricultural acreage will not be affected by the PMT and there is more land available for manure spreading than originally projected.

The ALEI team is pleased that the conference provided education for attendees on the relevant legal challenges and natural resource protection laws facing Maryland’s farmers. Materials from the conference may be accessed from the ALEI webpage under the publications tab.

By Sarah Everhart


Upcoming Workshops on Farm Succession to be Held Over the Winter

According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, the average age of principle farm operators in Maryland is 56. Many of these producers have not yet considered the steps needed to pass the farm on to the next generation. With this in mind, ALEI is partnering with the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Maryland Extension, the Maryland Department of Agriculture, and Nationwide Insurance to host a series of one-day farm succession workshops around Maryland during 2016 and 2017.

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The workshops will focus on the farm succession process, including communication, business planning, estate planning basics, and tax basics.

“The workshops will provide producers with the basic tools to begin the discussion with family members and others active in the farm,” said Ashley Ellixson, Extension legal specialist.  “These tools will help participants develop a farm succession plan and prepare the next generation to keep the farming operation successful. We actively encourage all principle operators and the next generation to attend one of these workshops.”

The workshop series is sponsored by USDA’s Risk Management Agency, MARBIDCO, Mid-Atlantic Farm Credit, Maryland Farm Bureau, and Delmarva Poultry Industries.  The workshops will be held at:

  • Nov. 30: Somerset County UME office
  • Dec. 6: Carroll County UME office
  • Dec. 13: Eastern Shore Hospital, Cambridge (Contact Dorchester County UME office)
  • Jan. 18: Montgomery County UME office
  • Jan. 19: Washington County UME office
  • Jan. 24: ST. Mary’s UME Office
  • Feb. 24: Calvert Grange Hall, Rising Sun, MD (Contact Cecil County UME office)

To register contact the county University of Maryland Extension offices.

By: Paul Goeringer


ALEI Team Members in the Classroom

Members of the ALEI team regularly teach courses to provide students with an overview of the pertinent agricultural and environmental legal issues facing producers as well as consumers. ALEI teachers aim to address the most current laws and regulations during their courses and to get students thinking about food, water, law, and policy.

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At the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, Michael Pappas taught his annual Natural Resources Law course in Fall 2016. This course offers law students an in depth exploration of natural resource management law, including a particular focus on land, water, wildlife, and energy regulation.

The fall semester also kicked off Paul Goeringer’s annual “Intro to Agriculture and Natural Resources Law” course taught at the College Park campus. This is the third time the course has been offered and is available to undergraduates. Goeringer covers both hot topics in agriculture law as well as some of the most important cases that have shaped agriculture law today.  He also addresses current policy issues facing agriculture and natural resources. The course aims not only to educate students but also to get the discussion ignited surrounding the legal issues facing producers today.

Sarah Everhart will be teaching “Food, Farming and Sustainability” at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law this upcoming spring. The course offers a detailed look into the numerous legal entities impacting our food and its production. The class will examine the government policies regarding agricultural production, environmental impacts, labor, food production, and energy and water use. Everhart will also touch on food safety regulation, organic and sustainable food production, land-use implications of food production, and the social impacts of food structures.

By Ashley Ellixson


ALEI Team Presents at National Small Farms Conference

ALEI team members Sarah Everhart and Mayhah Suri were featured at the “7th Annual Small Farms Conference: Creating and Sustaining Small Farmers and Ranchers” in Virginia Beach, Virginia on September 20-22, 2016.  Hosted by Virginia State University at the Virginia Beach Convention Center, the three-day conference featured speakers and sessions designed to educate small farmers and ranchers as well as extension agents who serve these communities.

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Suri displayed a poster explaining ALEI’s multi-faceted community-supported agriculture project that included research and extension, and which also resulted in several educational resources. The project, which has been highlighted by USDA, focused on risk communication methods for CSA operators.

Everhart led an oral presentation on using farm business organization structure to manage risk and plan for the future. Many farms are owned as sole proprietorships, which unnecessarily exposes farmers and their personal assets to risk. Everhart walked the attendees through the various types of business structures, detailing advantages and disadvantages of each type. Everhart also emphasized that ways in which business organizations can ease transitional and estate planning.

The audience was geographically diverse, with participants from the West Coast, Midwest, and Mid-Atlantic regions. Everhart described the audience as “small but inquisitive” and “many of their questions focused on liability and taxation” issues.  Everhart was pleased with the opportunity to present ALEI’s work to a national audience and to increase its national visibility.

The conference also included tours of the Virginia farm industry, including food hubs and other new agricultural movements, which were interesting and educational. Suri attended an informative pre-conference session on how to communicate with farmers about the changing climate and what it may mean for the farm. Both Everhart and Suri enjoyed networking with agricultural professionals from across the country. The ALEI team is headed to another national conference in early January, namely the American Farm Bureau Federation Conference, to present on agricultural legal risk management strategies.
By Mayhah Suri


Quarterly Update Archive

Agriculture Law Education Initiative September 2016 Quarterly Update

Agriculture Law Education Initiative June 2016 Quarterly Update

Agriculture Law Education Initiative March 2016 Quarterly Update

Agriculture Law Education Initiative November 2015 Quarterly Update

Agriculture Law Education Initiative July 2015 Quarterly Update

Agriculture Law Education Initiative June 2014 Quarterly Update

Agriculture Law Education Initiative March 2014 Quarterly Update