Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Derek Miller Presents on Nutrition Programs

Last Thursday, we were very fortunate to have Derek Miller teach a class on the USDA Nutrition Programs.  Derek's presentation was part of our Food, Farming & Sustainability class, a course that explores the complex range of agricultural and food law issues, surveying a different issue each week.  Derek appear via live digital video conference from Washington, D.C.

Derek's special expertise in the nutrition programs comes as a result of years of dedicated service in Washington, including significant work on recent farm bills.  He serves as legislative director for U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), the chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Prior to serving as Harkin's legislative director, Derek served as senior professional staff member on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, where he was responsible for food and nutrition policy, including federally administered food assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) among others.  Prior to working on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Miller worked for  Congresswoman Eva Clayton (D-NC).

The class provided an overview of the major federal food assistance programs, including the SNAP Program (formerly the Food Stamp Program) and the child nutrition programs (school lunch, school breakfast, and WIC).  As the number of Americans that slip below the poverty level increases, these programs provide a critical safety net for families and in particular for children. Woven into the discussion of the statutory framework of these programs, are the complex policy issues related to poverty, changing attitudes toward nutrition, local sourcing of food, and the impact of lobbying efforts.  The LL.M. candidates thoroughly enjoyed the presentation and the opportunity to ask Derek questions about the programs.  In fact, we all lingered well after class to continue the discussion with Derek.

We are very grateful to Derek for his fantastic presentation and have already invited him back to teach a session in our Food Law & Policy class next fall.  Appreciation is also extended to our alumna, Amy Lowenthal, for helping to connect us to Derek.  Amy served with Derek on the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

LL.M. Alumna Margie Alsbrook Presents at Hamline Food Law Conference

On April 15,  Hamline University School of Law in Minnesota hosted a symposium, Sourcing Food:  Finding Common Ground in an Age of Agricultural Competition and Conglomeration organized by the Hamline Journal of Public Law & Policy.

The LL.M. Program was well represented, as one of the six featured speakers was our alumna, Margie Alsbrook.  She presented on the topic,  From Test Tubes to Tongues: Regulatory Issues Related to Genetically Engineered Animals in the Food Supply and will be be publishing a related article in the fall edition of Journal.  She served on their expert panel that concluded the symposium.

Margie reports that it was a really interesting day and Katrina Knutson, the Symposium Editor, "did an absolutely fabulous job.  All of the speakers were very impressed with her professionalism and the event as a whole."

Margie's previous article on genetically modified and genetically engineered animals in the food supply was published by the Drake Journal of Agricultural Law in 2008.  She was also the founding editor-in-chief of the Journal of Food Law & Policy while she was a law student, and is currently working on a book for Springer Publishing with fellow LL.M. alumnus Erimar von der Osten.  Margie has her own legal practice, Alsbrook Legal Services where she works on a variety of food & agricultural law topics as well as with local businesses & entrepreneurs.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

USDA Senior Legal Advisor Stephanie Smith Addresses Class

Our Food, Farming, & Sustainability class has been focusing on agricultural cooperatives, and we were delighted to have USDA cooperatives attorney Stephanie Mari Smith conduct a fascinating video conference with the class from Washington D.C.

Stephanie is the Senior Legal Adviser on Tax, Legal and Policy in the Rural Business Services and Cooperative Programs of the USDA Rural Development Agency where she advises policymakers, agricultural producers, and stakeholders on the legal and tax structures of cooperative development.  Prior to her appointment, Ms. Smith has worked in the corporate, academic, public and private sectors with a primary focus on affordable housing law.  She has also gained expertise in finance while representing various financial institutions, large-scale developers and investors at national law firms.

Stephanie taught affordable housing law at the University of Michigan Law School- Legal Assistance for Urban Communities Clinic in Ann Arbor, Michigan as an adjunct clinical assistant professor.  Ms. Smith has also worked at the Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency in Trenton, New Jersey where she was a senior underwriter for the Multi-Family Lending Department.  She was in private practice for several years with offices in Newark and Trenton, where she represented residential, commercial and retail development clients.

Stephanie earned a B.A. at Howard University, a J.D. at Rutgers University School of Law, and Certification from the Harvard Divinity School- Summer Leadership Institute for Leaders in the Affordable Housing Industry.  She is currently attending Georgetown University Law Center in the pursuit of a LL.M. in International Business and Economics with an emphasis in International Taxation.  Ms. Smith has written various articles on the business practices of cooperatives and the affordable housing industry in peer-reviewed law journals and magazines; and has spoken in various venues about the role of the development attorney in the affordable housing industry.  She is currently Group Chair of the Residential, Multi-Family and Special Use Group and Co-Vice-Chair of the Membership Committee of the ABA’s Real Property Section.  She also serves as the ABA Real Property Section’s Liaison to the ABA Affordable Housing Forum.

Our appreciation is extended to Stephanie and to the USDA for this informative and interesting discussion.  I first met Stephanie when we both participated in an Agile Agriculture conference sponsored by the Center for Applied Sustainability.  We hope that this is just the first of our efforts to link her to our LL.M. Program.

In preparation for the video conference, the LL.M. candidates reviewed the video presentations and course materials prepared by recognized cooperatives attorney, Dr. James Baarda.  Dr. Baarda prepared extensive materials on agricultural cooperatives and donated them to us for educational use.  They are posted on our website as part of our cooperative law project, currently under development.  This project is supported by the  Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Corporation through the Leatherman Scholarship, named on behalf of Leland Leatherman, a leader in rural electric cooperatives law.  Next week, each of the LL.M. candidates will report on an agricultural or food cooperative that they have researched.

For more information on USDA's work with agricultural cooperatives, visit their cooperatives website and follow developments through the Rural Cooperatives magazine.