Thursday, February 21, 2013

Exciting LL.M. Independent Study Projects

The 2013 LL.M. class includes an ambitious group of attorneys tackling the issues that drive the public's growing interest in agriculture, the environment, and our food system through personalized Independent Study Projects.

LL.M. Candidate Sara Albert is collaborating with the University of Arkansas Community Design Center on an urban development model for the fifty percent increase to Fayetteville's built environment that is expected by the year 2030. The project, Fayetteville 2030: Food City Scenario, envisions a future based on food security, linking local food production to urban development. The final design model will incorporate urban agricultural land uses and relevant infrastructure that would support the development of Fayetteville as a local "food shed." Sara is assisting by providing legal research, analysis, and guidance on topics as identified by project leaders throughout the planning and design stages.

Sara will also be working with fellow LL.M. Candidate and Graduate Assistant to the LL.M. Program, Nicole Civita on a second independent study that will examine issues related to food justice. This study, titled Hunger, Access and Food Justice examines the persistent but under-recognized problems of hunger and malnutrition in America, with attention to the economics of healthy eating, the presence of urban, rural, and tribal food deserts, the rampant waste of food that occurs in both institutional and domestic settings, wealth disparities and worker poverty within the food system. Sara's work within this study will focus on identifying legal and advocacy work that might be done to create transformational change while Nicole plans to research and address these issues through the creation of a comprehensive set of teaching materials for a graduate level course in Food Justice.

LL.M. candidate, Lauren Handel is developing a alcoholic beverage law practice guide that will she will use in her practice when she returns to New York.  Lauren will be representing those involved in the food and beverage industry in the New York area. The guide considers the special regulations applicable to the sale and manufacture of alcoholic beverages and will be a useful tool for her as an attorney as well as for her future clients.

LL.M. Candidate Todd Heyman is providing work with the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), a Boston-based non-profit organization that uses "the law, science, policymaking, and the business market to find pragmatic, innovative solutions to New England’s toughest environmental problems."   Todd is providing legal research and writing in support of their Farm & Food Initiative, as well as other projects in CLF's Healthy Communities program.

LL.M. Candidate Adam Soliman is designing a course in Canadian Agriculture, Resource and Food Law. Adam's work will fill a void in Canadian legal education, as many law schools there do not teach Agriculture & Food Law. The course will address Agriculture Law, Resource Law and Food Law through a series of 14 units, each designed to cover one distinct topic, including sessions on topics such as Fisheries Law, Animal Welfare, Religious Food, and Nanomaterial & Food.

LL.M. Candidate and Visiting Scholar, Professor Pamela Vesilinds' study focuses on the development of an online course, Animals in Agriculture. This online course will cover the evolution and regulation of animal agriculture in America, contrasted with farmed animal welfare policies in other developed nations. Materials will cover laws related to the breeding, raising, feeding, transporting and slaughtering of land and marine animals used for food. Although the course will touch on multiple interrelated disciplines, including food safety law, agricultural law, labor law, environmental law, and business regulations law, the focus will remain on the laws and market pressures affecting the conditions of farmed animals while they are alive.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Ray Watson Named Illinois Dept of Ag General Counsel

Ray Watson was recently named General Counsel for the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Ray is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and Catholic University Law School. He received his LL.M. in Agricultural Law from the University of Arkansas School of Law, and I am pleased to mention that we were in the same class.  We had a fun group, and I have lots of good memories  - classes taught by Professors Pedersen and Looney, hiking the Ozark Highlands Trail system, and Notre Dame football parties at Ray's house. It was great fun to catch up with Ray last August at the Alumni Reunion and to meet his wife, Sue Gschwendtner.

Ray began his service to the State of Illinois in 1984 as an Assistant Attorney General. He became Deputy Chief of the Attorney General’s Agricultural Law Division in 1985 and Chief in 1987, where he provided representation to the Department of Agriculture as well as assistance to farmers facing the debt crisis of the 1980s. In 1991, after completing the LL.M. Program, Ray began a private practice, concentrating in agricultural law. Ray has spoken at several ISBA CLE programs on agricultural law issues. From 1999 until 2013, Ray worked for the Secretary of State as an Assistant General Counsel and as Executive Secretary of the Secretary of State Merit Commission. We are delighted to announce his new position as General Counsel to the Agriculture Department.

Ray was raised on a corn and soybean farm outside Odell, Illinois that is still operated by his brother.

Legal Issues in Agricultural & Food Law: Biotechnology

This week, Mark Henry, an experienced patent attorney and adjunct professor will deliver the first lecture in our unit on Agricultural Biotechnology in our Legal Issues in Agricultural & Food Law.  Professor Henry has taught Agricultural Biotechnology for us in the past, and we are delighted to have him back in the classroom. The class will focus on the development of intellectual property law as applied to genetic engineering, covering the three foundational cases, Diamond v. Chakrabarty, 447 U.S. 303 (1980); J.E.M. Ag Supply, Inc. v. Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. 534 U.S. 124 (2001); and Monsanto v. David, 516 F.3d 1009 (Fed. Cir. 2008).

Next week, we will read about and listen to the oral arguments in the Bowman v. Monsanto case that is before the Supreme Court. The case will be argued on February 19.  The briefs are all available on the SCOTUS blog and an audio recording of the oral arguments are available on the Friday after the hearing on the U.S. Supreme Court website.  The case has generated much interest and has been reported in the news nationally and internationally.  See, e.g., Farmer’s Use of Genetically Modified Soybeans Grows into Supreme Court Case, in the Washington Post and Indiana Soybean Farmer Sees Monsanto Lawsuit Reach US Supreme Court in the Guardian.

On February 27th, Professor Henry will come back to discuss the case with us.  And, for a follow up discussion, we will talk with Professor Bryan Endres from the University of Illinois.  Professor Endres has tracked agricultural biotechnology issues for some time and will present on his recent article, An Evolutionary Approach to Agricultural Biotechnology: Litigation Challenges to the Regulatory and Common Law Regimes for Genetically Engineered Plants, 4 Northeastern Univ. L.J. (forthcoming 2011).

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Dr. Jeannie Whayne Speaks on Agricultural History in the Delta

Agricultural History Professor and noted author Jeannie Whayne visited the LL.M. Class on Friday to discuss her recent book on the Lee Wilson plantation in northeastern Arkansas, Delta Empire: Lee Wilson and the Transformation of Southern Agriculture.

Delta Empire is a social, economic, and environmental history that traces the Wilson family plantation through distinct phases in the post Civil War period and analyzes how it intersected with trends in plantation agriculture, race relations, and environmental changes. It won the 2012 John G. Ragsdale prize from the Arkansas Historical Association.

Professor Whayne has published over a dozen articles and essays on Arkansas, African American, and Southern history. She has edited, authored, and co-authored nine books, including A Whole Country in Commotion, edited with Patrick Williams and S. Charles Bolton, and The Clinton Riddle: Essays on the 42nd President, edited with Todd Shields and Donald Kelley. Two of her books won the Arkansas Library Association's Arkansiana Award: Arkansas: A Narrative History, co-authored with Thomas DeBlack, George Sabo, and Morris Arnold, and her 1996 book, A New Plantation South: Land, Labor, and Federal Favor in Twentieth Century, Arkansas.  She is a frequent speaker at historical conferences and is the Vice -President and President-Elect of the Agricultural History Society.  She is currently working on a book on Memphis as "Cotton's Metropolis."  Professor Whayne teaches in the History Department at the University of Arkansas and serves as co-director of the University’s Teaching and Faculty Support Center.

A chapter from Professor Whayne's book A New Plantation South has been a regular assigned reading in our Agricultural Perspectives class in recent years. Agricultural Perspectives examines agricultural history through a series of documentaries and readings and considers how these historical events have shaped agricultural policies today. Readings and discussion seek to link the past to the present to the future, recognizing that today's issues are often best understood in the context of this history.

Professor Whayne's work illustrates our study of race relations in the post Civil War period and accompanied our viewing of the California Newsreel Documentary, Oh, Freedom After While.

We were delighted to have Professor Whayne as our guest speaker, and she delivered a fascinating presentation.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

James Haley Appointed Research Fellow for Food Recovery Project

In the United States, we waste from 1/3-1/2 of the food we produce.  By one estimate, this constitutes about 150 trillion calories.  Two billion people could be fed for a year with the amount of food that is thrown away in the U.S. each year.

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In addition to the food waste, however, consider all of the resources that went into the production and sale of that food -  the production inputs, the processing, the packaging, the transportation -  all simply wasted. 

And, waste is not only expensive, it's bad for the environment.  More than 34 million tons of food waste is generated in the U.S. each year. Nationally, it's the single largest component of Municipal Solid Waste that goes into landfills and incinerators. 

Meanwhile, 14.5% of our population is "food insecure." Arkansas has one of the highest rates in the U.S. with a food insecurity rate of 18.6% rate.  Even more alarming -  28.6% of Arkansas children are food insecure. 

Thanks to the generous award of assistance from the University of Arkansas Women's Giving Circle, the LL.M. Program hopes to do something to address these problems.  We are undertaking the Food Recovery Information Project.  

Businesses seem to almost uniformly say that they cannot donate food because of liability concerns.  Yet, there is a federal law, the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act that provides excellent protection.  Some state laws provide even more protection. We will be drafting a guide that explains the statutory protection, analyzes what a business needs to do in order stay within the terms of the law, and encourages businesses to develop safe, sensible food recovery policies. Extra food should first go to non-profits that can use it to feed those in need. Food that is not acceptable for human donation can often be used in animal production; and anything else should be composted.  

We are excited to announce that LL.M. Candidate and Arkansas attorney, James Haley, has been named Research Fellow for the Food Recovery Project. 

James received his J.D. from the University of Arkansas where he served as the Executive Editor of the Journal of Food Law & Policy and as an extern in Walmart’s Environmental Compliance department. James received his M.B.A. from Columbia Southern University while on active duty in the United States Marine Corps, where he served in the infantry for twenty years. James is licensed to practice in Arkansas and will be working with area businesses in the development of the guide.

We thank the Women's Giving Circle for making this project possible.  And, we are delighted to have another project that links our food and agricultural law studies with real world problems and solutions.