Sunday, March 31, 2013

Prof Kelley Leads One-of-a-kind International Experience in Belarus

Seven University of Arkansas School of Law students got a unique hands-on experience in international law when they traveled to Minsk, Belarus, as part of a course on Transnational Negotiation.

The two-credit-hour course is taught by Professor Christopher Kelley, an expert in international law and emerging legal systems in Eastern Europe, and included a week-long trip over spring break to Belarusian State University in Minsk, paid for by the students. There the American students teamed up with Belarusian law students to engage in negotiation exercises. When not in the classroom, students were invited to meet with Belarusian ministry officials and tour cultural sites.

“This is a unique opportunity in that no American law students have ever been invited to study like this in a group in Belarus before,” Kelley said. Kelley was the first American Law Professor to lecture at Belarusian State University’s law program, lecturing in English on legal writing and negotiation.

“When I did the legal writing class, I asked the Dean if he’d be open to a broader program where American and Belarusian law students could work together, and it grew from there,” he said.

Kelley took on the enormous logistical task of obtaining travel visas for his students and structuring a class around transnational negotiation.

“I’ve done similar trips before – last year I took law students to Moldova – but that was more about comparative law and the students’ own individual legal interests, and it wasn’t the same sort of structured program that we’re doing now,” he said.

While study abroad programs are popular with undergraduate students, lengthy summer abroad programs tend to be less popular in law school because law students traditionally take summer legal jobs instead. The University of Arkansas School of Law offers a summer-long study opportunity in St. Petersburg, Russia, as well as a joint summer program at Cambridge University in England with the University of Mississippi. By offering a week-long study abroad trip, Kelley condensed as much learning as possible into a short period of time.

“It can be hard to get a student to commit to a full summer abroad, especially if you’re looking at a legal career and you’re not sure you want to focus on international law,” he said. “This course with a shorter trip gives students a taste of international law and still leaves their summer free for work or a longer international program.”

Third year law student Andrew “Whit” Cox, who attended the School of Law’s St. Petersburg program in Russia, was a fan of Kelley’s approach. “The negotiations aspect of the course was a great move by Professor Kelley,” he said. “It allowed for much more in class interaction with the Belarusian students than the lectures in the St. Petersburg program.”

“We spent nearly all day, every day in the classroom. Our students have taken practical courses in negotiation, but the Belarusian students had not, so in addition to me doing some lecturing, we paired our students with Belarusian students on negotiation teams. It wasn’t an ‘us vs. them’ set up. Our students were actively engaged with the Belarusian students, which allowed them both to practice and to guide and teach,” Kelley explained.

“All of the students in the course spoke English but some were better at it than others,” second-year law student Angela May said. “So not only were we working on negotiations, we also helped the students who weren’t so strong in English understand what the issue(s) were and in a sense taught helped them with their English skills.”

The in-class exercises gave Arkansas and Belarusian students a chance to interact on a more personal level than is typical in many classes.

“I think this course was unique because the class created interaction, through legal education, with foreign students. The practical exercises that we engaged in with the students from Belarus taught me not only a lot about myself as an individual and American, but also a lot about others,” third-year law student Nick Alexander said. “One student said it all, “we are all people.” I think this theme sums it all up. It was fascinating to see the similarities in negotiating styles between everyone. I was surprised to learn that the students were more alike in their goals than not.”

“My favorite part of the trip was the exchange with the Belarusian students both in class during negotiations and after class when they took us to some of their favorite local joints,” said Cox. “On Thursday night we bought dinner and drinks for the Belarusian students at a traditional Belarusian restaurant to show our appreciation for the wonderful hosts that they were. It was truly a great trip filled with cultural exchange and diplomacy. Professor Kelley did an excellent job of putting this program together.”

Nearly all of the students who attended already had international experience through personal travel, but jumped at the chance to broaden their horizons further.

“I lived in Australia for two years as a missionary for my church, and I was interested in international law before this trip,” said law student Paul Pellegrini. “I’m definitely still interested in a career in international law after going to Belarus. Belarus was amazing!”

The experience furthered a desire to practice internationally for most participants.

“I have always been interested in the international aspects of business and law and someday I hope to live and work abroad,” May said. “Being in Belarus has enhanced my desire to work in international law.”

Alexander added, “I have always considered a career in international law and this course has strongly reaffirmed that desire.”

“I firmly believe that there is a need for lawyers in all areas of the world,” said third year law student Ben Barnett. “Everyone has the same human desires, and if you can help them achieve those, then your services will always be in demand.”

Professor Kelleys' various international law course offerings are available to interested LL.M. students as well as the J.D. students.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

LL.M. Alums Take the Lead at USDA Risk Management Agency

We were delighted to have an opportunity to talk via live video conference with two of our distinguished LL.M. alumni last Friday.

Brandon Willis was recently confirmed as the Administrator of the Risk Management Agency (RMA) at the USDA.  The RMA is "the agency that promotes, supports, and regulates sound risk management solutions to preserve and strengthen the economic stability of America's agricultural producers by providing crop insurance to American producers, developing and the premium rate, administering premium and expense subsidy, approving and supporting products, and reinsuring companies."

Prior to accepting the position at RMA, Brandon served as Senior Advisor to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Title I commodity programs, farm legislation matters and disaster assistance.  And, before advising Secretary Vilsack, he served as Deputy Administrator of Farm Programs for USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA).  In that position, he oversaw all FSA programs under the Production Emergencies and Compliance Division (PECD), Conservation and Environmental Programs Division (CEPD), and Price Support Division (PSD).

After Brandon completed his coursework in the LL.M. Program, he went directly to Washington, D.C. to serve as the Agriculture Legislative Assistant for U.S. Senator Max Baucus. He drafted floor statements on agricultural issues and worked closely on legislation, including the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, with a particular focus on the livestock disaster programs. He also drafted legislation that supported the use of existing conservation programs to help fight the declining population of bees and other pollinators.

While in the LL.M. Program, Brandon served as a Graduate Assistant for the National Agricultural Law Center.  He earned his bachelor's degree in crop and soil science from Utah State University in Logan, Utah, and his law degree from the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyo., and his LL.M. degree in Agricultural Law from the University of Arkansas School of Law.

Brandon grew up on a third generation sheep ranch in northern Utah and managed his family's raspberry farm, Bursting Berries.

Along with Brandon, we talked with another alumnus, Benjamin Thomas.  Ben was recently appointed Assistant to the Administrator at RMA. Before accepting the position with Brandon, Ben worked at the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) as a Program Manager, a position that he took immediately after completing his LL.M. course work. While at FSA, he was detailed to the Office of Senator Baucus, where he served the Senate Agriculture Committee and worked on the yet-to-be-passed 2012 Farm Bill.

Ben received his B.A. degree from Austin College (English Literature, German), his J.D. from Washington University School of Law, and his LL.M. in Agricultural & Food Law from the University of Arkansas School of Law.

He grew up on a cotton farm in the Lubbock, Texas area.

Brandon and Ben discussed farm policy issues and fielded questions from the LL.M. class. It was an informative session and a great opportunity to see and hear from alumni that are doing such important work. We are very proud of their accomplishments.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

International Connections - ILEX Trip to Warsaw

LL.M. Professor Christopher Kelley continues his outreach through the International Section of the American Bar Association (ABA). The International Law Section is the ABA entity that focuses on international legal issues and leads in the development of international legal policy, the promotion of the rule of law, and the education of international law practitioners. It's mission includes promoting interest, activity, research and education in international and comparative law and to advance the rule of law in the world.

This year, Professor Kelley was honored to once again be invited to join the Section's International Legal Exchange Program (ILEX) annual Briefing Trip. ILEX was created "under the proposition that a worldwide exchange of ideas and programs will lead to a heightened level of learning and understanding for all." One of the ILEX's activities is to arrange for Briefing Trips for a select number of ABA delegates.  These trips provide participants with a "first-hand knowledge of the legal and judicial systems of the particular host country or region" and "provide a unique opportunity for delegation members to interact with legal, business, and governmental leaders of the countries visited and to develop personal and professional contacts throughout the world." The trips are organized in coordination with the government or bar association of the host country.

This year the ILEX trip includes a visit to Warsaw, Poland. As I write this post, Professor Kelley is attending a Welcome Reception for the ILEX Delegation and representatives of the National Council for Legal Advisers, the National Chambers of Advocates Polish Academy of Science, professors from Warsaw University, the Law Faculty Alumni Association and law students. The reception is being held at Warsaw University.

Monday, the ILEX Delegation will meet with the Polish Ministry of Justice and members of Parliament.  They will then have several hours to meet with Hon. Andrzej Rzeplinski, the President of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal, Judges of the Constitutional Tribunal, Judges of the National Supreme Court of Poland, Judges from the National Supreme Administrative Court, lower court Judges, and representatives of the Polish Bar Council. The day concludes with a reception with the Constitutional Tribunal.

On Tuesday, the ILEX delegation will participate in a roundtable discussion on mediation in Poland with representatives from the National Council for Legal Advisors and Ms. Roza Thun, Panel Chair and Member of the European Parliament.

In the afternoon, the delegation will meet with Ambassador Janez Lenarcic, Director of the Office for  Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE/ODIHR).

Thanks in large part to Professor Kelley's outreach, our international connections and opportunities continue to grow.

Professor Kelley currently serves as Chair of the Public International Law Division of the ABA Section of International Law. He previously served three terms as the Co-Chair of the Section's Russia/Eurasia Committee. He also has served as Vice-Chair of the Section's Committee on International Legal Education and Specialist Certification. He was a delegate on the Section's International Legal Exchange (ILEX) briefing trips to Jordan, Lebanon, Australia, and New Zealand.  In the LL.M. Program, he teaches Agriculture & the Environment, Regulated Markets in Agriculture, as well as special seminars.  In the J.D. Program, he teaches Administrative Law, The Rule of Law, International Commercial Arbitration, and Transnational Negotiations.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

LL.M. Candidate Andy Frame Attends Mississippi Food Summit

We asked Andy Frame, one of this year's LL.M. Candidates, to write about the conference that he attended last week in his home state of Mississippi. The conference provided a testimony to the energy and enthusiasm for local food and sustainable agriculture today. And, it evidenced the wide range of issues associated with our food system. Andy is great blogger, thanks to his journalism background and this year's work at Food Safety News as the Marler Clark Graduate Assistant.  So, we knew he would do a great job reporting back to us.  Here's Andy's post:

“Don’t just talk about it.  Do it.”

That was one of many messages expressed on Friday, March 1, in Oxford, MS, at the 2013 Mississippi Food Summit, a forum on local food systems and sustainable agriculture.  That particular command was given by Jim Lukens, the executive director of the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group.

A barrage of speakers gave their experienced perspectives on what is happening in Mississippi – and what can happen in the future – to connect the state’s rural and urban citizens through fresh locally grown food.

Mark Winne, an author of several books on regional food systems, served as the keynote speaker.  Winne, a former executive director of the Hartford Food System in Hartford, CT from 1979 to 2003, said his focus is to “develop new standards of community wealth, with a legacy of healthy bodies, clean air and water, and with a food system that is sustainable and just.”

Winne emphasized the importance of active participation in public policy, saying that while “the food revolution,” happens on the ground one project at a time, it is through good food policy where things can change quickly, and in a big way.

If Winne was the pasture-raised pork shoulder on the forum’s prix fix menu of speakers, four panels of farmers, policy makers, non-profit organizers, government employees and successful business leaders fed the crowd the rest of the day from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Each panel had a theme:  Human and Environmental Health; What is a Local Food System?; Models and Innovations, Invigorating Local and Regional Economies; and Building Community, Opening Doors and Strengthening Partnerships.

The conference was a success in that every speaker offered a different way of looking at this complex food movement.  By no means is this all inclusive of what was said on Friday.  This is a brief summary of roughly half of the speakers.

Human and Environmental Health

Nancy Woodruff, the new president of the Mississippi Food Policy Council, came to Louisville, MS, five years ago as a holistic health practitioner.  Woodruff said she had to stop counseling people through holistic methods because of the lack of a base of high quality foods necessary for her success.  Now through the Mississippi Food Policy Council, she is promoting “farm-to-school” programs and farmers markets around the state.

Donna Speed, the Director of Nutrition Services for the Mississippi State Board of Health, added to the conversation on connecting farmers to schools by talking about her role in the farm-to-preschool program.  Speed was glad to report that Mississippi is in the top three in the country for preschool nutrition guidelines.  “Farmers need to be aware of what the Department of Health is looking for,” Speed said.  “The nutrition guidelines will drive demand for farmers.”

Speed said schools aren’t the only place for farmers and youth to connect.  Childcare centers need food also, she said, and parents are asking those childcare centers to provide healthier foods more than ever.

Finally, Speed said having gardens at the schools helps educate children about what they are eating.

“If the kids grow it, they’re going to eat it,” Speed said.

“What is a Local Food System?”

Shelly Johnstone talked about the progress she’s been a part of in Hernando, MS, as manager of the Hernando Farmers Market, and through development of a food hub that would connect local growers with a wider market.

Edwin Marty from EAT South talked about each segment of our food system.  He discussed production (growing plants and raising animals), processing (transforming and packaging), distribution (transporting, storing, and marketing), consumption (purchasing, preparing, and eating), and waste (composting and discarding).  Marty emphasized that a food system could never be considered sustainable if it failed to account for waste.

Marty, who recently published a book, Breaking Through Concrete, asked the advocates in the room to create food systems with intention by thinking about the consequences of each decision they make.

Tupelo farmer Will Reed, who founded Native Son Farm in 2010, talked about his business, which involves selling his fresh produce through a CSA (community supported agriculture), to local restaurants, and through direct sales.

Reed said his goals are to be economically stable, influence healthy eating in the community, use environmentally stable practices, grow vegetables in nutrient rich soil, and add to the local culture.  Reed listed a lack of infrastructure and a need for a better input supply chain as challenges to his business and to local food production in general.

Models and Innovations, Invigorating Local and Regional Economies

Paige Manning, the Director of Marketing and Public Relations for the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, began the third panel by discussing the growth of farmers markets in the state.  In just a few years, markets have grown from around 20 to more than 70 (26 of those being certified).  Manning stressed the benefits for state certification – which includes a sales tax exemption for growers – but pointed out that getting certified is not a difficult barrier to get past.

Mississippi state senator Gray Tollison discussed two bills aimed at supporting local food: HB 798 and HB 715.  HB 798, the Healthy Food Retail Act, recently passed the House and is due for a vote in the Senate.  It would seemingly provide healthy food retailers and non-profits access to funds through grants and loans.

HB 715 died in committee, however.  It would have exempted certain cottage food producers (homemade products such as jellies and baked goods) from certain health code regulations.

Building Community, Opening Doors and Strengthening Partnerships

Jim Ewing, a journalist, author, and organic farmer from Lena, MS, moderated the final panel.  Ewing recently published a book, Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating.

Karen Wynne came to Oxford from the Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network to share her experiences connecting with non-profits, farmer cooperatives, schools, and other stakeholders in a regional food system.  Her advice for anyone attempting to do the same was to look for authentic relationships, treat everyone like a leader, and support the organizations that are already doing the work they want to accomplish.

Keith Benson, a Holmes County, MS, native who works with the Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture Production, had a clear message:  “With whatever you are planning, make sure you plan it with the farmers.”  Benson asserted that any sustainable food system would fail if the limited-resourced farmers were not supported, and therefore could not be relied upon to produce.

Benson added that a farmer’s most important needs are labor, equipment, and a reliable water source.

Glyen Holmes, another Holmes County native, began bringing food from farms to school in the mid-90s, and is still doing so with the New North Florida Cooperative.  Holmes showed a video clip of a CBS news report that showed him driving a refrigerated truck of fresh vegetables to schools in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi.  He advised people trying to start similar projects to network, be professional, and to not promise more than you can do.

Mary Berry finished off the day by talking about her work with the Berry Center, a new organization based in Kentucky that is based on the work of her father Wendell Berry, her grandfather John M. Berry, Sr., and her uncle John M. Berry, Jr.  The Berry Center’s goals include the study of small-farm agriculture and young-farmer education.

After a day packed with energized speakers, the conference was handed over to the Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute on Saturday for their annual Sustainable Living Conference.  Workshops included cooking from the garden year-round, how to make a worm bin, Mississippi edible perennials, green-building home improvements, a food policy council session with Mark Winne, canning, and home brewing, among many others.

Andrew D. Frame
LL.M. Candidate, LL.M Program in Agricultural & Food Law, University of Arkansas School of Law (graduation anticipated May 2013)
2012-13 Marler Clark Graduate Assistant
J.D., Mississippi College School of Law, cum laude
B.A., Auburn University (Journalism and Communications)
Experience includes Judicial Intern, The Honorable David Chandler, Mississippi Supreme Court; Law Clerk, Randall Segrest; Legal Intern, Office of Indigent Appeals
Other professional experience:  Realtor, Keller Williams Greater Athens, Athens, Georgia