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Quarterly Update July 2015

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July 2015 Update

Landowner Liability Resources and Seminars – By Ashley Newhall

After hearing from many Maryland farmers that landowner liability issues, especially those occurring on agritourism operations, were of particular concern to agriculture operators, ALEI made a big push this year to educate farmers on these issues in a variety of ways.

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Starting in February, ALEI participated in the Mid-Atlantic Women in Agriculture Regional pre-conference in Dover, Delaware. ALEI speakers including Paul Goeringer, Sarah Everhart, Wele Elangwe, and Ashley Newhall presented sessions on a host of legal issues impacting agriculture, including the various types of landowner or premise liability, defenses to premise liability, and waivers and other strategies to manage liability risks for farm businesses, such as agritourism operations. Participants were actively engaged in discussion and had the opportunity to question the team concerning these topics. Newhall also presented a panel for agritourism operators and addressed concerns regarding events on the operation premises, liability insurance, and liability waivers.

Speaking of liability waivers: Newhall and Kathleen Tabor, a Maryland attorney specializing in agriculture and equine issues, have created a model landowner liability waiver. The model form is offered for educational purposes to help producers and agritourism operators develop their own liability waivers. The waiver may not meet all an operator’s needs so individuals are advised to seek independent legal counsel before using the form, but it is a helpful starting point and informational tool for producers.

At the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy’s “Eased Landowner’s Breakfast” on May 27, Goeringer and Everhart discussed the various forms of landowner liability and defenses. Everhart has also recorded short informational videos on the topic. The videos cover the general types of landowner liability in Maryland and defenses to liability which all agricultural operators should understand.

ALEI’s efforts to educate and assist operators with landowner liability issues are aimed at reducing liability exposure for Maryland’s farm families.


Community Supported Agriculture Workshops and Contracting Guide – By Paul Goeringer

In 2014, ALEI partnered with the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics (AREC), Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA), and Maryland Farm Bureau (MFB) on a grant project through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service to develop a Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) model contract and contracting guide. The 2012 Census of Agriculture identified 119 Maryland farms using a CSA business model. The purpose is to educate CSA operators and subscribers (customers of CSAs) on the legal risks associated with the arrangement.

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As a part of the project, ALEI and AREC held two workshops and a webinar series earlier this year. Sponsors of the workshops and webinar series included Mid-Atlantic Farm Credit, Maryland Crop Insurance Education Program, and the University of Maryland’s Beginning Farmer Success program. Additionally, the group is already planning future opportunities to further educate CSA operators and consumers later this year. Both the workshops and the webinar series covered common CSA contract mistakes, understanding the model contract, common labor law issues, and crop insurance options for CSA operators.  Attendees included those currently operating a CSA and those considering CSAs.  Attendees praised the information received as valuable and helpful in their operations.

The model CSA contract is currently available online as a fillable pdf and a Word document on the University of Maryland Extension’s website, copies of the CSA contracting guide will be available in both print and online. If you are interested in a copy of the contracting guide or discussing the topic more, please contact umaglaw@umd.edu.


2015 Agriculture and Environmental Law Conference – By Sarah Everhart

Later this fall, ALEI will host the Agriculture and Environmental Law Conference at the Doubletree Hotel in Annapolis, Maryland. Discussion topics at the November 20, 2015 conference will include Nutrient Credit Trading, the Maryland Animal Feeding Operations (AFO) General Permit, Chesapeake Bay leasing for shellfish aquaculture, on-farm conservation practices, and anaerobic digesters on the farm: policy, legal, and science panel discussion. ALEI has organized an exciting panel of dynamic presenters to discuss these topics, including Secretary of the Environment Ben H. Grumbles and many others.

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Last year, ALEI released the results from a statewide agricultural survey conducted to ascertain the legal needs of the Maryland agricultural community. ALEI conducted the survey to not only tailor its outreach and services but also to aid attorneys, state agencies, members of the General Assembly, and other groups working with the agriculture community in knowing which legal issues are important to the agricultural community.

According to the survey results, one of top legal concerns of agricultural producers is environmental regulations. To that end, ALEI hopes the conference will advance the dialogue about the complex system of environmental laws affecting farmers across Maryland. The conference is geared toward members of the agriculture community, including farmers, agricultural and environmental attorneys, regulators, agriculture professionals, environmental associations, and elected officials. Registration is open.


ALEI’S Paul Goeringer Is 2015 Top Non-Tenure Track Faculty – By Sarah Everhart

Paul Goeringer, Extension Legal Specialist in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, has received the University of Maryland’s 2015 Non-Tenure Track Excellence Award.

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Goeringer has established himself as a leader of the Agricultural Law Education Initiative (ALEI). In 2013, he became ALEI’s founding legal specialist and helped fill a major void of legal outreach in Maryland, traveling to countless meetings to make topical presentations to producers across the State.

Goeringer has authored more than 100 educational articles covering a host of legal issues important to Maryland’s agricultural community. He has also played a major role in carrying on the University’s well-received risk management outreach program and adapting the program to address new issues raised by the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill.

Goeringer grew up on a wheat and cattle operation in Western Oklahoma and went on to acquire a distinguished educational background in agriculture with a B.S. in Agricultural Economics from Oklahoma State University, a Juris Doctorate from the University of Oklahoma, and a L.L.M along with an M.S. in Agricultural Economics from the University of Arkansas.

“Paul is a great asset to our Extension team. His practical knowledge of farming coupled with his law background is a win-win for University of Maryland Extension!” said Jenny L. Rhodes, University of Maryland Extension Educator.

Goeringer is also an innovator in his role with the University.  Along with others in ALEI, he undertook the first ever legal needs assessment of the Maryland agricultural community (and only the second such assessment nationwide) in 2013. The assessment focused on interviewing agricultural, natural resource, and environmental leaders in the state, and has helped guide much of ALEI’s early work in determining needs to focus on and research areas to pursue.

Another example of Goeringer’s outstanding vision and leadership is his development of the Maryland Risk Management Education Blog, which covers topics related to the law and risk management education and has steadily increased in readership under his guidance. In early 2014, Goeringer along with AGNR alumni Kim Manuelides, Esq. began a monthly column in the Delmarva Farmer on legal issues impacting agriculture, and by mid-2014 a similar column was picked up by the Lancaster Farming.


Agriculture Section of Maryland Bar Wins Presidential Best Section Project Award for the Members – By Sarah Everhart

The Maryland Bar Association awarded the Presidential Best Section Project Award for the Members to the Agriculture Section of the Maryland Bar on June 13, 2015. MSBA awards the Presidential Best Section Project Award annually to the Section of the Bar who has created a project most benefitting its members. Last year, the Agriculture Section created the 2014 Legal Services Directory, a detailed listing of contact information for attorneys across the State who have specialized knowledge and/or experience in agricultural legal issues and who are interested in representing clients with these issues. The Legal Services Directory has been a valuable tool for members of the Agriculture Section and the larger agricultural community to match those in need of legal services with qualified attorneys in their area.

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The Maryland Bar Association awarded the Presidential Best Section Project Award for the Members to the Agriculture Section of the Maryland Bar on June 13, 2015. MSBA awards the Presidential Best Section Project Award annually to the Section of the Bar who has created a project most benefitting its members. Last year, the Agriculture Section created the 2014 Legal Services Directory, a detailed listing of contact information for attorneys across the State who have specialized knowledge and/or experience in agricultural legal issues and who are interested in representing clients with these issues. The Legal Services Directory has been a valuable tool for members of the Agriculture Section and the larger agricultural community to match those in need of legal services with qualified attorneys in their area.

The Agriculture Section has just completed a comprehensive update to the Legal Services Directory in both a hard copy and online format so that the resource can continue to benefit the citizens of Maryland. See the online directory at:  http://ter.ps/LegDirect.


Quarterly Update Archive

Agriculture Law Education Initiative June 2014 Quarterly Update

Agriculture Law Education Initiative March 2014 Quarterly Update