ALEI legal specialist Nicole Cook discussed her role at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) at last month’s second Association of 1890 Research Directors (ARD), UMES, and the USDA-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) 1890 ARD & USDA-ARS Food Safety Consortium Symposium. The event was held at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center from April 23-25.
During her presentation, Cook shared that UMES is the only 1890 institution in the nation partnering on an agriculture law program like ALEI. Cook is the dedicated agriculture and environmental faculty legal specialist on the UMES campus. A large part of her work focuses on the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and other food safety topics relevant to Eastern Shore farmers and communities. At UMES, Cook participates in several programs to help farmers on the Eastern Shore and across the state comply with FSMA regulations.
The event provided networking opportunities for 1890’s based faculty and staff and USDA-ARS scientists as well as highlighted current research, education, and extension efforts of 1890’s institutions related to food safety and agricultural water quality. The symposium encourages collaborations between 1890’s students/faculty, USDA-ARS representatives, and others to develop transdisciplinary solutions to national food safety and agricultural water quality problems. This symposium also promoted project funding sources for student/faculty.
The event is the only Food Safety Symposium focusing on current research and education at 1890 institutions. The event featured oral presentations, networking lunches, 1890 faculty and student presentations, poster sessions, a food safety workgroup, and an awards dinner and appreciation ceremony.
Cook is planning a FSMA Produce Safety Rule Grower Training at UMES this September. She is also part of a team of extension specialists who will assist with On Farm Readiness Reviews (OFRR) on the Eastern Shore. “OFRRs are an opportunity for producers who have completed the FSMA Produce Safety Rule Growers Training to request that MDA conduct a review of their farm before official inspections. This will give farmers feedback about their level of compliance with FSMA,” Cook said. MDA representatives will lead the OFRRS, while the partnership with UME will provide farmers more opportunity for assistance with any challenges they might have complying with FSMA on their farm. Cook is also developing resources for farmers on the Eastern Shore with little or no English skills.
A key part of ALEI’s mission is to educate and advance the understanding of laws and policies which apply to and affect the food system. The ALEI partnership reaches Maryland’s agricultural community through in-person trainings, publications, webinars, and formal class room education. In conjunction with experts from across the University System of Maryland, state and federal agencies, and private sector providers, ALEI provides legal education resources to Maryland farmers and students about liability stemming from food-borne illness outbreaks, good agricultural and handling practices, and FSMA.
Nicole Cook joined ALEI in the summer of 2017.