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Quarterly Update June 2017

June 2017 Update

ALEI Presents at Women and Land Conservation Learning Circle

American Farmland Trust (AFT) held its final session of a three-part Women and Land Conservation Learning Circle series in Easton, Maryland, on March 30. AFT holds women’s learning circles across the country to help female landowners become more knowledgeable and confident about farm conservation issues, practices, and available resources. According to AFT, more than 50 percent of the women attending these sessions take a conservation action within six months.

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The recent learning circle workshop, “Future of Your Farm: Planning a Legacy,” focused on two important agricultural law topics: leasing and succession planning. Talbot County farmer John Swaine and University of Maryland Extension Educator Shannon Dill spoke about their leasing experiences. Swaine farms over a thousand rented acres of farmland. Through humorous stories and anecdotes, Swaine expressed the need for communication between landowners and tenant farmers, discussed the many conservation practices he has installed on his Royal Oak, Maryland, farm, and emphasized the value he places on land stewardship. Dill told the attendees about the many resources available to landowners and farmers to help draft a farm lease, including the University of Maryland Grain Marketing webpage which lists suggested rental rates and  Agricultural Leasing in Maryland.

ALEI Legal Specialist and Senior Research Associate Sarah Everhart discussed the value to both the landowner and the tenant farmer of a written lease.  Everhart said oral leases leave both parties to a lease vulnerable to misunderstandings which can lead to costly legal action and, importantly, hamper implementing conservation practices on rented farmland. Everhart explained that a well-formed farm lease encourages a tenant farmer to make farming decisions which both increase yields and maintain the long-term viability of the land.  Everhart also referred to the ALEI companion document to the Agricultural Leasing guide now underway which will help landowners and tenants create leases to address conservation practices and soil health.

Workshop attendees also heard from local estates and trusts expert, C. Lee Gordon, Esq. Gordon had an interactive discussion with attendees about the importance of succession planning and how legal tools such as trusts, business entities (LLCs, Partnerships, etc.), and a well-formed will can help landowners preserve their legacy.  Representatives from the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, discussed how attendees can implement practices to be better stewards of their land today, as well as use easements to ensure their land remains undeveloped in the future.

In the coming year, American Farmland Trust will hold Women’s Learning Circles sessions throughout Maryland; keep an eye on the upcoming events section of the ALEI website.

By Sarah Everhart, Senior Legal Specialist and Research Associate

ALEI Awarded Competitive Northeast SARE Grant

The University of Maryland – College Park, Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics and the Agriculture Law Education Initiative (ALEI) was recently awarded a $14,197 Northeast SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) Partnership Grant to create and administer on-farm food safety educational programs during winter 2017-18. SARE grants are given to individuals or organizations to fund research and education projects, according to the grant website.

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With the grant, ALEI plans to collaborate with University of Maryland Extension educators, the Maryland Department of Agriculture, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and farmers to create training sessions for farmers dealing with ways to avoid contaminating farm produce.

The idea to develop the on-farm food safety training program began with ALEI legal specialists Sarah Everhart and Ashley Ellixson. “Last year, when presenting to farmers at Maryland Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) trainings, we had a lot of questions from farmers on how GAP and the new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) standards applied to individual operations,” said Everhart.

GAP trainings aim to teach farmers about decreasing the likelihood of contaminating produce, addressing water quality, fertilizer use, and animal activity, according to Maryland Department of Agriculture. FSMA, signed into law in 2011 by the federal government, aims to guarantee the food supply is safe by focusing on preventing food contamination rather than responding to it, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Everhart and Ellixson wanted to provide on-farm food safety trainings to allow educators to use farm equipment and buildings as educational tools, providing as much specificity as possible on GAP and FSMA best practices in an actual farm setting. “I began contacting farmers about hosting the trainings, and they liked the prospect, not only for their own employees but also for their colleagues,” said Everhart. “Everyone was very excited and supportive, including the regulatory agencies.”

Trainings will be offered at three different types of farms – community-supported agriculture, agritourism, and on-farm market — in different locations across Maryland.  “The goal is to equip farmers with the knowledge they need to prevent foodborne illnesses, reduce health risks and thereby improve the quality of life of Maryland’s agricultural community,” said Everhart.

Members of different regulatory agencies will present on particular topics as part of Everhart’s planned curriculum at the trainings. Watch the ALEI website for more details.

By Sarah Fielder, Communications Intern

ALEI Presents at Maryland Poultry Symposium

The Maryland Poultry 101 Symposium, held at Chesapeake College on May 10th, was a day-long event to provide different perspectives and insights into the Maryland poultry industry. The Symposium addressed basic concepts of the industry, including the role of growers, new technology and procedures, regulations, and environmental issues. The event was sponsored by the Rural Maryland Council, the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and Maryland Grain Producers

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Extension Legal Specialist Paul Goeringer spoke to groups in Extension Legal Specialist Paul Goeringer presented on the Maryland right-to-farm law during a panel session on understanding the role of government in the poultry industry. The panel included Gary Kelman, CAFO permitting manager at Maryland Department of Environment (MDE), and David Mister, Eastern Shore regional coordinator at Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA). Kelman spoke about the role of MDE in regulating concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Kelman described how the federal and state levels of governance affect Maryland poultry growers, including getting a CAFO permit and nutrient management plans. Kelman emphasized that as a state regulator, his goal is to help producers understand the requirements and help them stay compliant. Mister expanded on how the close working relationships between MDA, MDE, and local soil conservation boards help to ensure poultry producers have resources to successfully apply for animal feeding operation permits. Mister also emphasized that as regulators, MDA strives to help producers through the application process and answer producer questions. Mister said “the end goal is to have a farm that can be permitted and can operate in compliance.”

Goeringer explained the legal history behind right-to-farm laws, a legal defense against nuisance claims, and how Maryland farmers are protected by this law. Goeringer tied the right-to-farm law issue to the other panelists’ presentations, noting that the defense only applies if a farmer is compliant to all other permits, such as the animal feeding operation permit.  In Goeringer’s experience, “poultry growers often have questions on how right-to-farm laws protect their operations and how they interact with other laws.  Non-poultry growers often ask similar questions.” Goeringer viewed his presentation “as an opportunity to help [the audience] understand how right-to-farm laws work, how states are looking at changing them, and how Maryland stacks up in the current debate.”

Audience members asked questions on monitoring point and nonpoint source water pollution, air quality, and stipulations in the Maryland right-to-farm bill.

Goeringer noted that the Symposium brought together a diverse audience, with members from industry, NGOs, educators, and those interested in the industry in general.

The full panel session is available here. Find ALEI’s publication on the Maryland right-to-farm law here.

By Mayhah Suri, Faculty Specialist

ALEI at Extension Risk Management Education National Conference

ALEI Legal Specialist Paul Goeringer and Research Associate Mayhah Suri attended and presented at the Extension Risk Management Educators Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio on April 27 and 28, 2017.

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“[The] focus is on risk management issues faced in agriculture and innovative ways extension around the U.S. teaches farmers learn how to manage those risks,” said Suri.

The conference was hosted in the Hyatt Regency in downtown Cincinnati. Topics covered at the conference discussed managing the risks of agribusiness, including production, marketing, financial, legal and human risk, according to Extension Risk Management Education.

“I’ve attended [the event] since I was a grad student,” said Goeringer. “I love the opportunity to interact with colleagues around the US and learn what they are doing and how it can help my program.”

At the event, Goeringer presented “Programming in the Sun: Extension Programming for Alternative Energy Leases.” He focused on how within the past few years, the opportunity for landowners to use alternative energy in Maryland has grown, and he explained the complexity of the leases associated with solar energy.

“[I] show[ed] how AREC working with partners like ALEI, UME (University of Maryland Extension), and other groups can develop outreach and educational resources to help landowners understand new issues,” said Goeringer. “Plus how we can quickly react to new challenges faced and utilize existing resources.”

Suri delivered a talk about “Managing Risk: New Markets and New Farmers” at the conference. She spoke about the main components of two extension programs, including ALEI’s extension work.

“The first part focused on how to teach farmers that business structures can mitigate personal liability and help incorporate more generations into the family business,” said Suri. “The second part walked through the processes and results of a community-supported agriculture project that resulted in a model membership agreement, accompanying guide, and several in-person workshops and related materials on risk communication between CSA farmers and members.”

The event was an opportunity to connect and learn with other extension educators from around the country and make other university educators aware of ALEI resources. Approximately 150 people attended the event.

Next year, Suri hopes to attend the event again. Goeringer also plans to take connections made during his session to develop partnerships and resources to help landowners in Maryland understand risk management issues.

By Sarah Fielder 

ALEI Evaluation

We want to hear from you!

ALEI is conducting an evaluation to help the program meet the needs of the Maryland agricultural community. The assessment is designed to take only 10 minutes and will help ALEI in determining which legal issues to focus on in the coming year and best forms to present information on those top needs. The evaluation is available online at http://go.umd.edu/ALEIEval.  Please take a moment and let ALEI know what you think

Quarterly Update Archive

Agriculture Law Education Initiative March 2017 Quarterly Update 

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