Saturday, November 19, 2011

David Lambert Visits Food, Farming, & Sustainability Class

We were privileged to have a special guest visit the LL.M. Program last week.  David Lambert was in Fayetteville as a guest of the Fulbright College of Arts & Sciences, and he offered to stop by the LL.M. Program to talk to our class.  He has been an enthusiastic supporter of our efforts to link food, agriculture, and the law in a way that is helpful to the problems of hunger, environmental problems, and sustainability.

David is recognized internationally as an expert in global food security and the fight against world hunger. A native of Arkansas, David is principal of Lambert Associates, a Washington, D.C., public affairs consulting firm providing strategic policy advice to United Nation’s agencies, land-grant universities and the U.S. private sector on issues related to global food security, child nutrition, food safety and agricultural biotechnology. He also served as Foreign Agricultural Service Counselor to the U.S. Mission to the UN Agencies during the Clinton Administration.

During his visit to our class, David asked critical questions regarding the problems of global hunger.  He presented the alarming statistics on the current condition of global food insecurity.
  • About one billion people are chronically hungry, with inadequate access to food and water
  • 25,000 die of hunger and related causes each day; about nine million each year
  • A child dies of hunger every five seconds
  • More than one billion people live on less than $1 a day
He discussed why we should care about global hunger, what the root causes are, and what policies are needed to address the problems.  And, he discussed the critical role that our LL.M. Program might play in developing the critical link between food, agriculture, and the rule of law.  Only with the appropriate legal infrastructure and equitable laws that are uniformly enforced can we achieve solutions to the problem of global hunger.

David is an outspoken leader on global hunger issues, and we were honored to have him with us.  His moving presentation, The Quest to End Hunger in Our Time: Can Political Will Catch Up with Our Core Values? is available on the Clinton School of Public Service website.  The Journal of Food Law & Policy was pleased to publish his remarks from that presentation.  They are available online courtesy of the Iowa State University Seed Science Center.

Bill Marler Teaches Food Safety Litigation Class

This past week, we were pleased to welcome our distinguished visiting professor, Bill Marler for the condensed course that he teaches on Food Safety Litigation. The first two hours of his class were conducted as a public forum, with good attendance from the law school, others from the University of Arkansas, and the wider community.

An accomplished attorney and national food safety expert, William (Bill) Marler is recognized as the most prominent foodborne illness lawyer in America and a major force in food policy. His firm, Marler Clark has represented thousands of individuals in claims against food companies whose products have caused serious illness or death, securing over $600,000,000 for victims of E. coli, Salmonella, and other foodborne illnesses.  He is the founder of the popular online newspaper, FoodSafetyNews, a blogger and tweeter with a large following, and a frequent commentator on food safety issues.  Marler Clark is a sponsor of our Graduate Assistantship program, with Allie Condra serving as the 2011-12 Marler Clark Graduate Assistant.

Bill Marler was a strong proponent of the Food Safety Modernization Act that was signed into law in January of 2011. This was the first major reform of the Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) food safety regime in seventy years. It shifts the FDA focus from reactive to preventative, expands FDA powers to inspect and recall, establishes risk-based priorities, and addresses major weaknesses in import safety assurances.  Bill advocated for the legislation, writing about the need for better consumer protection, testifying before Congress, and speaking to the media about the need for stronger food safety regulation.  His public forum topic was, How the Food Safety Modernization Act Came About:  Food Safety and Forces of Change.

As part of the condensed course, Bill brought popular author Jeff Benedict to Arkansas to talk to the class. Jeff is the author of the well received 2011 book, Poisoned: The True Story of the Deadly E. Coli Outbreak That Changed the Way Americans Eat.  This book chronicles the historic Jack in the Box E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in 1993 and its impact on our food safety system.  As one review notes, the book provides a "jarringly candid narrative of the fast-moving disaster drawing on access to key documents and exclusive interviews with the real-life characters at the center of the drama - the families whose children were infected, the Jack in the Box executives forced to answer for the tragedy, the physicians and scientists who identified E. coli as the culprit, and the legal teams on both sides of the historic lawsuits that ensued."  Central to the story is the young lawyer, Bill Marler, who "staked his career on bringing the victims justice without compromise."

The LL.M. candidates truly enjoyed the class and the opportunity to get to know Bill and Jeff. They each did a great job in the classroom. Our appreciation is extended to them for providing such a fantastic experience to our class.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

FCA General Counsel Charlie Rawls Presents to Class

Our Food, Farming, & Sustainability class provides a survey of agricultural law, and one of the topics that we discuss is agricultural finance and credit.  Part of that unit includes a 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.

In addition to our readings, we were delighted to have an opportunity to learn first hand from Charlie Rawls, the Farm Credit Administration's General Counsel.  The Farm Credit Administration is the independent federal agency that regulates the Farm Credit System. Having the opportunity to talk directly with FCA's general counsel was a tremendous opportunity for our LL.M. class.

Charlie Rawls has had an amazing 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.

Charlie delivered an excellent presentation to the class via live video conference.  He provided information about the role that the FCA has in regulating the Farm Credit System and offered his perspectives on the remarkable success of the system.  He also discussed the challenges going forward, including issues regarding farm land values, changes to federal farm policy, and changes to U.S. agriculture.  He spoke specifically about the growing interest in local food systems and the increasing role that the Farm Credit System will likely play in financing the farmers involved.  The class asked many excellent questions, producing a lively dialogue.  Our appreciation is extended for this wonderful opportunity.