Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ron McCormick Speaks on Wal-Mart Heritage & Sustainability Programs

We were pleased to host Ron McCormick, Senior Director for Local & Sustainable Produce Sourcing at Wal-Mart for a presentation in our Food, Farming & Sustainability course this morning. 

Mr. McCormick is one of the architects of Wal-Mart's Heritage Agriculture program, a program that seeks to reintroduce specialty crop agriculture to areas where it once was located, but has since been displaced.  Heritage Agriculture is key to Wal-Mart's goal of connecting directly with farmers and to sell more locally sources fruits and vegetables.  Mr. McCormick delivered an interesting and informative presentation about Wal-Mart's local sourcing initiatives, their link to sustainability, and the key partnerships envisioned between retailers and producers.  He stressed his belief that there was a window of opportunity for a new agriculture to be created and built into our food system, and that the actions we take now will be critical to having a sustainable food system in the future.  The LL.M. candidates asked many questions and continued to engage in discussion with him long after class ended.  Our appreciation is extended to Mr. McCormick -  it was a great class that discussed many important and very timely topics.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

David Grahn Teaches Class on Crop Insurance

USDA attorney and long time friend of the LL.M. Program, David Grahn video-conferenced with the LL.M. class last week, providing them with an effective and informative introduction to the complexities of federal crop insurance.

David is the Associate General Counsel for Rural Development at the USDA. He is responsible for the legal advice provided by the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) to the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation/Risk Management Agency, as well as the Rural Housing Service, Rural Business-Cooperative Service, Rural Utilities Service, and the Farm Loan Programs of the Farm Service Agency. From 1996 through 2002, David was the Assistant General Counsel for Legislation responsible for the drafting and reviewing of legislation and the reviewing of Congressional testimony that affected USDA agencies. He was detailed to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Forestry, and Nutrition during Congress' consideration of the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996. From 1992 through 1995, David served as a Confidential Assistant to the Administrator of the Farm Service Agency. Mr. Grahn is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School and Carleton College.

We greatly appreciate David's involvement in the LL.M. Program. He is one of our most popular visiting professors, and it is always great to have him in the classroom.

As one of the LL.M. candidates wrote to me at the end of last week, "it's wonderful to get to interact with accomplished, motivating people who can give us personal insight into the various policy and legal issues that are the subjects of our studies. This strength is a great asset to the program and I want you to know how enriching our conversations with Mr. Grahn and Mr. Rawls were."

Saturday, November 13, 2010

From the Roots of Our Past Grow the Promises of Tomorrow

Check out the recent message on the USDA blog posted by LL.M. Alumnus Janie Simms Hipp, Native American Role Model Addresses USDA Employees about Global Unity Through Diversity.  Janie serves as the Senior Advisor for Tribal Affairs at the USDA.  Her post describes the activities associated with the National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month ceremony, "From the Roots of Our Past Grow the Promises of Tomorrow," held in Washington, DC, Tuesday, November 9, 2010.  Janie highlighted the address given by Billy Mills, 1964 Olympic Gold Medalist and the inspirational words that he spoke, including, “Build a better America and in doing so, build a better world. Global unity through diversity, the future of humankind.”  I encourage everyone to check out the blog post to learn more about the ceremony, Billy Mills' insprirational life, and his presentation.   Our thanks to Janie for posting the message.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Conference with Charles Rawls, FCA General Counsel

On Wednesday, November 10, we were delighted to have the opportunity to do a live video conference with the Farm Credit Administration's General Counsel, Charles Rawls. This conference was the highlight of our study of the Farm Credit System, the unique nationwide network of cooperative lending institutions and related organizations. Farm Credit System lenders provide more than $160 billion in loans, leases, and related services to the agricultural community. The Farm Credit Administration is the independent federal agency that regulates the system. Having the opportunity to talk directly with FCA's general counsel was a tremendous opportunity for our LL.M. class.

Mr. Rawls has had an unparalleled career of leadership in agricultural law and policy. Before joining the FCA in March 2003, he was General Counsel and Vice-President for legal, tax, and accounting at the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives. During the consideration of the 2002 farm bill, he served as the General Counsel of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. He served as General Counsel for the USDA from 1998 to 2001, and before that served as Chief of Staff to the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. He also served as Counsel to the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Forests, Family Farms, and Energy; Associate General Counsel of the House Committee on Agriculture; and, Legislative Director and Administrative Assistant to Congressman Martin Lancaster.

Mr. Rawls delivered an excellent presentation that included comments regarding the financial crisis, our overall economic environment and the agricultural economy.  He then presented specific information about the role of the Farm Credit System in serving the agricultural community and took a questions from the audience.  His presentation was well-received and informative.  We appreciate Mr. Rawls' willingness to video conference with us, and we hope that it will be the first of a number of connections with the Program.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Unsafe Food Litigation Class: Bill Marler

We were delighted to host Bill Marler for the second part of our condensed course in the LL.M. Program, Unsafe Food & Products Liability.  The course was team taught by Denis Stearns and Bill Marler, both partners in the Seattle based firm, Marler Clark.

 Professor Marler is an accomplished personal injury lawyer and national expert in foodborne illness litigation. He and his partners at Marler Clark have represented thousands of individuals in claims against food companies whose contaminated products have caused serious injury and death.  Professor Marler has been a major force in food safety policy in the United States and abroad through his advocacy for more effective food regulation.  He is one of the founders of Outbreak, a nonprofit consulting group dedicated to food safety advocacy. And, Marler Clark also founded and supports the popular online daily newspaper, the Food Safety News

 Professor Marler began his class with a public presentation on foodborne illness litigation.  His sessions with the LL.M. class focused on actual cases of serious food borne illnesses, with the class evaluating the cases and the discussing damages.  It was a great opportunity for the LL.M. candidates to not only explore the law, but its applicability to real life situations.

We all enjoyed having Bill with us for a couple of days and have already invited him back for next year!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Unsafe Food Class: Day One with Denis Stearns

We were delighted to host Professor Denis Stearns today, teaching a full day of product liability law in the context of foodborne illness litigation. Professor Stearns is a partner in the nationally acclaimed Marler Clark food safety firm and was the first at bat in our tag-team Marler Clark class, Unsafe Food & Product Liability.  He did a fantastic job -  bringing the class through the history of product liability law and then introducing the legal concepts essential to foodborne illness litigation.

Tomorrow, we welcome Bill Marler who will begin his teaching with a presentation that is open to the public, from 9:00 - 11:00.   The Unsafe Food & Products Liability class is a great opportunity for our LL.M. candidates to learn from two of the best food safety litigators in the country.