by Jess Feldman
During the 2017 winter session, The University of Maryland Extension (UME) collaborated with the Agriculture Law Education Initiative (ALEI) to conduct a survey on the top legal issues facing Maryland farmers and the need for legal education during the winter agronomy meetings. Results from this survey found that 88 percent of farmers report agricultural law education programs are “important” or” very important” to farm operations. UME annually hosts statewide winter agronomy meetings to share current agricultural research and education with local farmers and agricultural professionals.
Following the survey, both UME and ALEI found that over 60 percent of farmers polled believe that agricultural regulations highly affect farm business operations, with the second highest concern being uncontrollable weather conditions.
The results show that 15 percent of Maryland participants find environmental law topics to be the top concern for farm operations. Other issues of concern to farmers include land use, business liability, farm succession planning, and food safety; all of which ALEI has been and continues to work on.
For Paul Goeringer, extension legal specialist with the University of Maryland, the results are not surprising. “We did a survey in 2013 with county agriculture educators, which had similar results prior to winter meeting evaluations,” Goeringer said.
“The next step for us is to continue to develop resources that meet those top needs in the state, which are always going to be focused on environmental and land use,” Goeringer explained.
Over 600 farmers attended the 2017 winter sessions, with over 88 percent of the participants living in Maryland. Of those from Maryland, the majority have over 30 years of farming experience, with the average farmer tilling 101-500 acres.
ALEI also continues to do programming to help farmers limit their business liability and understand the issue better, Goeringer said. The topics of farm succession and food safety are covered during annual workshops by other UME specialists, state agencies, and nonprofits.
To access a full report on the results of this survey please click here.