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Quarterly Update March 2017

March 2017 Update

ALEI Launches Newly Redesigned Website

The Agriculture Law Education Initiative (ALEI) is pleased to announce the launch of our fully redesigned website. This user-friendly redesign includes several new features, including dynamic graphics, a highlighted video library, and perhaps most importantly, a search bar that allows users to search the entire ALEI website for a specific resource or topic. This new website will allow ALEI to continue to grow and keep up with the needs of its web audience.

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“We outgrew our old website because the amount of offerings we have for the public have changed a lot and we have a lot of media content,” said Mayhah Suri, a faculty specialist. “We wanted to get into the 21st century and be a modern and responsive media organization.”

A key component of ALEI’s mission is to connect Maryland farm families with timely, relevant information. To achieve this mission ALEI uses a diverse online outreach strategy, including social media, blogging, and multimedia web-based resources. The site serves as a user-friendly introduction to ALEI and as a navigable repository of the resources ALEI has for farmers.

The new website was launched on January 18, 2017. The redesign took several months to complete, and includes information about upcoming events associated with ALEI as well as ALEI’s social media links to keep readers up to date on a variety of platforms. Emails to ALEI may also be sent through the website.

Visit the newly designed ALEI website at www.umaglaw.org

By Sarah Fielder, ALEI Communications Intern

Maryland Farmers Are Committed to Ensuring Their Food is Safe

Maryland’s farmers are a diverse group but they all have one thing in common, namely they all want to produce safe food for consumers. ALEI is committed to helping Maryland’s farmers achieve this goal by offering and supporting food safety education.

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ALEI legal specialists presented at the state’s Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) trainings hosted by the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) and the food safety specialists at the University of Maryland (UMD). The GAP trainings teach Maryland farmers to farm in a way to reduce the likelihood of contaminating produce. GAP standards address water quality, manure and compost use, worker health and hygiene, and contamination from wild life, domestic animals, and livestock.

Sarah Everhart, an ALEI legal specialist and research associate, presented to farmers at the GAP training session on January 24 in Westminster, Maryland, discussing civil and criminal liability stemming from foodborne illness outbreaks. Everhart said it is important that farmers understand the legal underpinnings of foodborne illness liability cases. Once farmers understand how and when legal liability occurs in a foodborne illness outbreak, they can focus on prevention and take steps to avoid liability. Clearly and sufficiently labelling farm products is one way farmers may be able to prevent foodborne illness liability.

ALEI has also supported MDA and UMD efforts to educate and train farmers on the federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Everhart recently explained the basics of FSMA’s Produce Safety and Preventive Controls Rules to farmers at the Eastern Shore Vegetable Growers meeting and encouraged the farmers to attend an upcoming FSMA training course. The good news for Maryland farmers following Maryland GAP is that the Maryland GAP contains many of the same standards required by FSMA.
Everhart explained the main differences in the food safety programs are first, FSMA training is legally required for those farmers subject to the law and second, water testing and related record keeping is more frequently required.

Farmers can find out about upcoming FSMA trainings by checking the events section of the ALEI website (www.umaglaw.org/events). The ALEI legal specialists are committed to creating legal resources and education opportunities to help Maryland farmers maintain the best possible level of food safety.

By Sarah Everhart

The ALEI Team Crisscross the State to Teach Maryland’s Farmers

During winter, while Maryland’s farmers enjoyed a much deserved rest, the legal specialists at ALEI traveled to nearly every corner of the state to provide the agricultural community answers to their legal questions.

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Extension Legal Specialist Paul Goeringer spoke to groups in Washington, Carroll, Cecil, Montgomery, and Queen Anne’s Counties about pesticide drift liability. While no Maryland court has yet considered the issue of liability from pesticide drift, courts in other states have. These decisions provide some guidance on how a Maryland court might handle the issue. Depending on the facts of the drift case, pesticide applicators and farmers could owe damages for nuisance or trespass, or for uses inconsistent with the pesticide label. To learn more about pesticide drift liability, check out the ALEI factsheet on the topic.

In Harford County, Legal Specialist and research associate Sarah Everhart discussed the key legal concepts to understand when buying and selling farmland with a large group of Maryland farm producers.

Everhart, drawing on her background in real estate and land use law, explained the roles of realtors, lawyers, surveyors, and title companies in a land transaction; the meaning of pertinent real estate contract provisions; and the purposes of financing documents and title insurance. Everhart emphasized that farmers should never sign any paperwork that they don’t understand and they should consider hiring professionals, such as an attorney, to protect their interests. Everhart gave a similar presentation for the Mid-Atlantic Women in Agriculture webinar series, which can be accessed here.

Goeringer and Everhart also presented to groups in Dorchester, Cecil, and Queen Anne’s counties on the hot topic of solar energy leasing on the farm.  Many farmers have been recently approached by solar developers about using their farmland for the installation of solar energy production. This has created an increased interest in the legalities surrounding solar leasing contracts. ALEI has responded with a series of educational presentations and webinars on the topic. Listen to a recording of Goeringer’s presentation on the legal considerations of solar leasing and a recording of Dr. Sebastien Houde’s presentation on the economics of solar leasing.

ALEI legal specialists relish the opportunities over the winter season to connect with the farm community and hear about the legal issues affecting their operations. The legal specialists use these interactions to direct their legal research and publications priorities for the coming year.

By Sarah Everhart

ALEI Presents to National Audience at American Farm Bureau Federation Convention

ALEI team members Ashley Ellixson, Sarah Everhart, Paul Goeringer, and Mayhah Suri presented at the 2017 Annual American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Convention and IDEAg Trade Show in Phoenix on January 9. The five day conference featured speakers and sessions designed to keep farmers informed of the latest developments in the agricultural industry, including advances in science, technology, and policy.

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Ellixson and Goeringer led the “Preparing to Manage the Crisis Before the Crisis” session, discussing ways to prepare for different crisis-like situations on the farm, such as hiring an undercover activist, environmental contamination, or a major farm accident. The session focused on farm employee management, including performance training, hiring, firing, and examined relevant regulations. As with many ALEI educational materials, the presentation was designed to help farmers manage their risk while keeping them informed about the legal dimensions of the topic.

Everhart and Suri conducted a session on using business organizations in a farm business to manage personal risk and plan for the future. The majority of farms are owned as sole proprietorships, which exposes farmers and their personal assets to liability risk. Everhart and Suri walked attendees through the various types of business structures, detailing advantages and disadvantages of each. Everhart emphasized that utilizing a business organization structure can, not only liability risk but also ease transitional and estate planning and allow for off-farm investors.

Several conference participants commented that the ALEI presentations were well-organized and informative. While at the convention, the ALEI team members enjoyed attending other sessions, supporting friends from Maryland Farm Bureau who were competing in convention events and keeping up-to-date on the issues facing America’s farmers.

ALEI’s presentations on crisis management, business organizations, and estate planning can be found at: https://umaglaw.org/videos and publications at: https://umaglaw.org/publications-library/
By Mayhah Suri

Quarterly Update Archive

Agriculture Law Education Initiative December 2016 Quarterly Update

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