Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Law of Food and Agriculture

As we have done in recent years, we began our academic year with An Introduction to the Law of Food and Agriculture, a popular course taught by our long-time friend and colleague, Neil Hamilton. Neil is the Dwight D. Opperman Chair of Law at the Drake University School of Law and the Director of the Drake Agricultural Law Center. He has taught agricultural law for over twenty years and was instrumental in the founding of our LL.M. Program, serving as one of our first professors in 1981. He returns to Arkansas at least twice each year to teach classes in the LL.M. Program. Pictured here is Professor Hamilton and University of Arkansas School of Law Dean Cynthia Nance.

In this course, Professor Hamilton introduces our LL.M. candidates to a wide array of agricultural policy issues and discusses current trends affecting food and agriculture.
Among the current issues that the class discussed were:
  • Increased consumer and retail interest in local foods
  • Direct marketing opportunities for agricultural producers
  • Sustainable agriculture and the development of a sustainable food system
Exemplifying the currency and significance of the issues discussed in class, today the Washington Post highlighted the local food movement in its article, As Food Becomes a Cause, Meeting Puts Issues on the Table.

As this article notes:
The term "foodie" is no longer reserved for an exclusive club of chefs and discriminating diners. Today, food has become a focus -- and a cause -- for a broad audience, from individuals such as the Chico residents offering their yards to an idealistic urban farmer, to corporations such as Chipotle, which this month announced that each of its more than 730 restaurants will be required to buy a percentage of the produce it serves from local farms.

Sodexo, the world's largest food-service company, now sources from 700 independent, regional farmers and is overhauling its menus to focus on seasonal and local ingredients. Wal-Mart announced last month that it plans to buy and sell $400 million worth of locally grown produce at its stores in 2008. "It's no longer the fringe elements," said Tracey Ryder, founder of Edible Communities, a publisher of regional food magazines. "We call it the new mainstream."
As one of the founders of the slow food movement in Iowa, Professor Hamilton is at the Slow Food Nation in San Francisco that is described in the Post article.

We are pleased to offer our LL.M. candidates an opportunity to begin their year of study by exploring this very current area of law and policy - the merger of food and agriculture through the formation of a food law system that is based on sound agricultural production practices, environmental sustainability, and a restored connection between consumers and their food.

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