Saturday, January 25, 2014

USDA Associate General Counsel Teaches Course on Farm Policy

Last week, we were proud to welcome our good friend David Grahn who flew in from Washington, D.C. to teach a condensed course for us, Farm Policy and the Federal Budget.

David serves in the USDA Office of General Counsel as Associate General Counsel for International Affairs, Food Assistance, Farm and Rural Programs.  He represents the interests of a wide range of USDA entities: Farm Service Agency, Risk Management Agency / Federal Crop Insurance Corporation, Rural Development Agency, Rural Business Service, Rural Utilities Service, Foreign Agricultural Service, the Food and Nutrition Service, and the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion.

David spent Monday, Tuesday, and part of Wednesday in concentrated sessions with our LL.M. students, explaining complex aspects of agricultural policy development.  Much of the class was devoted to understanding how the federal budget drives policy development and how administrative law can be used strategically to affect policy outcomes.  It was a practical, real-world look at how agencies work, how political goals can best be met, and how money works in Washington.

David's time with us this year was interspersed with phone calls and emails from D.C. David is often asked by those working with the House and Senate Agriculture committees to comment on the technical language used in the farm legislation that is being drafted, including the farm bill, and he provides wise counsel.

The LL.M. students were delighted with the class.  Comments included "eye-opening look at federal policy,"  "great teacher - explains complicated information so clearly,"  "best class in my 20 years of education" and, "amazing opportunity."  Student evaluations that most professors only dream of . . .

A special note that is a testimony to David's professionalism -  in order to avoid any possible conflict of interest, David volunteers his time to the LL.M. Program.  He takes vacation days, pays his own travel and stays with Christopher and me in our rustic home in the Ozarks where our menagerie of dogs and cats also think he is just the greatest.  Thanks, David.

Support for our Friends and Alumni in Ukraine

The University of Arkansas, the Law School, and the LL.M. Program all have strong connections to Ukraine through the excellent students who have come to Fayetteville to study with us, the distinguished visitors we have hosted, the law colleagues we have met through the digital video conference exchanges, and all of the friendships formed.  Our ties at the Law School originated with the work of Professor Kelley in Ukraine as a Fulbright Scholar in 2005, and over the years, our connections have expanded from that base.  We are proud to have an LL.M. alumna who is from Ukraine and who was one of our best international students in the Program.

So, it is with great concern that we watch the events unfolding in Ukraine and worry for the safety of the courageous protestors who seek a more democratic government and closer ties to the European Union.  For those who wish to follow the events in Kyiv, we suggest the following resources.

Live-streaming from Kyiv can be viewed on at

The Kyiv post has a website with continual updates, EuroMaidan.

Recent photos can be found on many websites, including on the Business Insider, with the ominous headline, Kyiv Has Become a War Zone.

We all hope for a peaceful resolution for the people of Ukraine.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Californian's Perspective on Fayetteville, Arkansas

Each year in the LL.M. Program, we attract a geographically diverse group of attorneys to study with us in Fayetteville.  While there are always a few Arkansans in the class, the majority come from out of state.  For example, this year's class includes Lauren Bernadett, a recent graduate of UCLA Law School.  Lauren moved to Fayetteville from Los Angeles, California. I asked her to write a post about moving to Fayetteville and what she found here -  

Here's Lauren's post: 

In-person attendance will continue to be an important and invaluable component of the Agriculture and Food Law LL.M. Program, even as we develop a distance learning program for those who cannot relocate to Fayetteville.  Even once future students have the choice between in-person attendance and distance learning, students should still strongly consider in-person attendance even if that means relocating.

The thought of relocating (even if just temporarily) to Fayetteville can be intimidating for many reasons. One reason may be that Fayetteville is a new town, or Arkansas is a new state for you.  For some previous students, moving to Fayetteville for the LL.M. Program was their first time living outside of their home state.  We hope that fear of a new town would not dissuade any future students from attending the LL.M. Program in person.  In fact, many students find Fayetteville to be one of the best places they have ever lived.  We would like to share with future students some aspects of living in Fayetteville that make it a great place to live, even if  just for one academic year.


Especially if you are moving from a bigger city, you will be pleasantly surprised by the housing and rental prices in Fayetteville.  Many students find that they pay much less here than in their previous city.  And the accommodations will be appropriate for people of all tastes and lifestyles – you will be able to find housing as luxurious or as cheap as you like.  Fortunately, there seems to be plenty of housing available in Fayetteville so the housing search can be less of a rat race than you may have experienced in bigger cities.

Many students chose to live close to campus for ease of access.  Students have lived in apartments rented out by property management companies including Pierce Properties, Sweetzer Properties, and Lindsey Management, to name a few of the bigger companies with reasonably priced rentals close to campus.  Previous students have also found apartments on Craigslist and through private renters.  Other students live further away from campus, especially those looking to live in a house or away from the campus scene.


Naturally, many people interested in the LL.M. Program will also be interested in the local food scene in Fayetteville.  In addition to grocery chains such as Harp’s and Walmart, the Ozark Natural Foods Co-op is less than two miles from campus and is a favorite of many LL.M. students.

Fayetteville also boasts one of the best farmers’ markets in the country.  It has been in operation since 1973 and was voted American Farmland Trust’s Favorite Large Farmers’ Market in 2012. Located less than a mile and a half from campus in the Historic Fayetteville Square, shoppers can find fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs, honey, jams,
baked goods, crafts, art, and adoptable dogs at the farmers’ market on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings.  The farmers’ market currently runs April through November, but they are hoping to start a winter market soon!  Other farmers’ markets, as well as local fruit and vegetable stands, also operate in Fayetteville and other nearby towns.

Fayetteville restaurants offer common Southern fare such as barbecue, catfish, and deep fried everything, so if that’s an incentive to move to the South, you won’t find it lacking in Fayetteville!

But our vegetarian and health-conscience students are usually pleasantly surprised by the amount of restaurants offering alternative food choices.  Fayetteville also has its share of crave-worthy Thai, Japanese, and Korean restaurants.  If you’re looking for Indian food, nearby Bentonville has a large selection of Indian restaurants.

The grassroots food movement is also flourishing in Fayetteville, giving LL.M. students the opportunity to participate in this new culture.  Tri-Cycle Farms, a local sustainable farm, is just down the street from campus, hosts various community events, and has an ongoing relationship with the LL.M. Program.

Feed Fayetteville is alleviating hunger by promoting a local and sustainable food system. Edible Ozarkansas is a magazine dedicated to the local food culture in the Ozarks.

All these groups and more add to the food culture and community of Fayetteville, making this city so much deeper than just the food companies for which it is famous.

Fortunately for LL.M. students, being in Arkansas allows us to take advantage of the diverse offerings and perspectives of both large, international food companies and small, grassroots food groups.


Fayetteville is not lacking in activities to keep LL.M. students busy, ranging from the outdoors to the arts.  There are a few nearby favorites:

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art – Crystal Bridges Museum is home to pieces of American art from throughout the ages, as well as temporary exhibits and community events.  It is located on 120 acres of beautiful forest in Bentonville.  Visitors can explore the museum’s acreage via the multiple walking trails throughout the premises.  The architecture of the museum alone is a thing to behold.  Designed by world-famous Moshe Safdie, the museum forms a bridge over two lakes made from a natural stream.  Best of all, general admission is free!

Devil’s Den State Park – located just south of Fayetteville along highway 540, Devil’s Den is a beautiful place to spend a day hiking and enjoying the beautiful surroundings of Northwest Arkansas.  Plenty of beginner-level trails make this a fun place to take family and friends.

Bike Paths – the many bike paths that span throughout Fayetteville and nearby-Springdale provide an excellent place to bike or run.  One of the trails runs along the east side of campus.  The various paths meet up with each other so you won’t get bored from having to ride along the same trail.  Most of the paths are off the street so bikers and runners don’t have to battle with cars.  The paths are well-maintained and some parts are even lit at night.

Prairie Grove Civil War Battlefield – this is one for the history buffs.  Prairie Grove is one of the most intact civil war battlefields.  There is a walking trail, a driving tour, and guided tours.  On even numbered years in December, the battlefield hosts the largest battle reenactment in Arkansas.

Dickson Street – this is the street near the campus that makes Fayetteville a college town.  The many restaurants and bars along this street are great places to grab a bite or a drink, especially because of its close proximity to campus.  This year’s LL.M. class joined each other for many dinners and happy hours on and near Dickson Street.

Dickson Street Bookshop – anyone interested in historic or out-of-print books will be able to spend hours in this fascinating bookstore.  The walls are lined with unique books of all themes and ages.

Bikers, Blues, and BBQ – if you love motorcycles, stick around for this annual festival.  It is the third biggest biker rally in the nation.

Arkansas Music Pavilion – the “AMP” attracts many well-known bands and musicians, including Alabama Shakes and Lynyrd Skynyrd, just to name a couple 2013 appearances.  It is set to expand into a bigger location in Rogers (just north of Fayetteville) to attract even more big-name groups starting in summer 2014.

Of course, there are many other things to do in and around Fayetteville.  Many online resources have plenty of other suggestions for activities in the area.  Professors and recent LL.M. grads can also be good sources for the must-see attractions of the area.

Getting In and Out

The closest airport to campus is the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) in Bentonville, thirty minutes north of campus.  XNA has direct flights to cities such as Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago.

Students sometimes find that it is cheaper to fly out of the Tulsa International Airport, which is less than a two hour drive from Fayetteville and has a wider selection of airlines.

The ease of access to these airports makes life easier for students who undertake regular personal travel throughout the academic year.  Both airports have reasonable economy parking rates, currently at $5 or $6 per day.


Fayetteville has a noticeably slower pace of life than big cities on the coasts.  This is a welcome relief for many.  However, there is enough happening in the city and area and enough professionals and big companies that it does not feel too slow.  Instead, Fayetteville hits a very nice, livable medium.

Students from out of town will notice the southern hospitality in Fayetteville.  Especially coming from a big city, the people of Fayetteville seem relaxed and genuinely kind.  People have time to answer your questions and chat, and they wave or say “Hi” when you run by each other on the bike path.

As a pleasant relief for students moving from big cities, there is comparatively little to no traffic here (locals will call it traffic, but it doesn’t compare to traffic in a big city) and parking around town is usually abundant, free, and unrestricted.  Some students who live further away from campus avoid the cost of a campus parking permit by parking in nearby neighborhoods and walking a short distance to campus.  There are usually no parking restrictions and you’ll never have to move your car for street sweeping.


Northwest Arkansas has four seasons.  Not surprisingly, your perception of Fayetteville weather will depend on where you have lived before.  The summers and winters in Northwest Arkansas are milder than some places in the country and harsher than other places in the country, but it is bearable even for those of us who moved from southern California.  If you’re concerned about the weather, get a better apartment with newer windows, well-insulated walls, and central air/heat.  Fall in Fayetteville is beautiful, and there is no shortage of trees in the area to show off the beautiful colors of the season.

Fayetteville and the Northwest Arkansas area are growing, and it is easy to see why – it has the amenities of a big town, but has a small town feel.  The surroundings are beautiful, and there is plenty to do.  Our students, even the ones who were hesitant about moving to Arkansas, are usually very happy to have had the chance to experience Northwest Arkansas, even if just for one year.  As we modernize our program to add the distance learning component, we hope that many future students will still opt for the in-person program so that they have the chance to experience the charm of Fayetteville!

(Author’s Note: I moved to Fayetteville from Los Angeles for the 2013-14 school year.  I am happy to answer any questions about my moving and/or Fayetteville experience from a Californian/big city perspective.  I can be reached at

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Spring Semester Schedule

Those interested in learning more about the LL.M. Program in Agricultural & Food Law as well as our friends and alumni, are usually interested in what classes we are offering.  This semester, we are pleased to be trying out some new scheduling and offering the first of a number of new courses under development. 

As is reflected in the chart below, we have our usual full semester classes, such as Agricultural Perspectives, our always-popular and thought-provoking look at U.S. agricultural history using documentaries and readings.  

We also have our usual condensed courses, such as the amazing look at the impact of the budget on the development of federal farm policy that USDA Associate General Counsel David Grahn offers in Farm Policy and the Federal Budget. These condensed courses meet over several days of intense study. 

We are also offering classes that meet for only 7-weeks at the beginning or at the end of the semester, as well as special two-week semi-condensed classes.  All of this allows us to develop a schedule that allows us to introduce our students to a wide range of interesting topics without having to study everything at once.  

Our schedule also usually allows at least one work day per week without classes (typically Monday), providing students with an opportunity to focus on their research and writing or special projects. 

New classes include Food Justice, taught by Professor Nicole Civita and Intellectual Property Issues in Agriculture and Food Law, taught by Professor Uche Ewelukwa, and Local/Regional Food Systems & the Law, taught by Professor Neil Hamilton.

This year, we are also providing additional experiential opportunities, with externships in food safety and compliance at Wal-mart and an experiential independent study with the Sustainability Consortium involving life cycle analysis for food products.  We hope to have additional opportunities with non-profit organizations and agencies next year.  Our work with the Indigenous Food & Agriculture Initiative and the Food Recovery Project  continues as well. 

LL.M. Program in Agricultural & Food Law
Schedule of Specialized LL.M. Courses
Spring 2014

Course Title
Course Description
Required Courses
Agricultural Perspectives
Wednesdays, 10:00 – 12:00 (except for condensed course weeks)
Agriculture has a rich and varied history, and today’s issues are often best understood in the context of this history.  This course examines a wide range of social and economic issues, considering their origin and how history is reflected in today’s policies. The course includes a series of documentaries. 
Advanced Writing in Agricultural & Food Law
Thursdays, 11:10 – 12:00 (may not meet every week – TBA)
Research in a specialized area of agricultural or food law and development of a paper that demonstrates rigorous legal analysis and quality legal writing.

Elective Courses

Local/Regional Food Systems & the Law
Condensed Course March 17 – 20
This course examines recent efforts to re-establish local and regional food systems and explores the attendant legal and policy issues.
Farm Policy & the Federal Budget
Condensed Course January 20 – 22
Face-to-face condensed class featuring David Grahn, USDA, OGC and focusing on the impact of budgetary rules and restrictions on policy making at the federal level;  this will be a particularly timely session;  it will be offered over 2 condensed days of class
Regulation of Livestock Marketing & Sales
Fridays, 8:10 – 9:50
Jan. 17 – Feb. 14
Mar. 7 – Mar. 14
Study of the regulation of livestock and poultry sales under the Packers and Stockyards Act, with a particular focus on production contracting, mandatory price reporting, industry concentration, and anti-trust issues.
Agricultural Water Law
Thursdays, 9:00 – 10:40
Jan. 16 – Feb. 13
Mar. 6 – Mar. 13
Study of the basic legal principles applicable to water rights through consideration of water rights for agricultural use.
Agricultural Finance & Credit
Fridays, 10:00 – 11:40
Jan. 17 – Feb. 14
Mar. 7 – Mar. 14
Study of the legal issues surrounding the financing of agricultural operations, including credit availability, agricultural security issues under the Uniform Commercial Code, and debt restructuring opportunities. Special focus is on lending options offered by the Farm Service Agency and the Farm Credit System.
Regulated Markets in Agriculture
Tuesdays, 9:00 – 10:40
Jan. 14 – Feb. 14
Mar. 4 – Mar. 11
Study of the economic regulation of specific sectors of the agricultural industry focusing on perishable agricultural commodities (fruits & vegetables), and dairy products. Included is the study of formal and informal administrative review. Note -  this class will introduce Marketing Orders in the fruit & vegetable industries as well as the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA)
Selected Issues in International Agriculture and Food Law
Tuesdays & Thursdays 9:00 – 11:00
April 1 – 24 ( except no class on April 3)
An eclectic survey of some of the most important emerging issues in the international food production, including for example, land tenure and “land grabbing,” and water use and water scarcity
Intellectual Property Issues in Agriculture and Food Law
Condensed Course
Tuesday – Friday, Feb. 18 – 28
1:00 – 3:00
The goal of this course will be to demystify intellectual property law and introduce students to key issues and developments in the areas of Copyright Law, Trademarks Law and Patent Law  that pertain to agriculture and food.  It will consider issues from Trademark Law, such as Certification Marks (e.g. Idaho Potatoes), Geographical Indicators (e.g. Rooibos Tea; Grana Padano cheese), Trade Dress (e.g. whether the shape of an Easter chocolate bunny is protectable under trademark law).  It will also address issues from Copyright Law including copyright laws on food recipes as well as copyright laws on food labeling.  Issues from Design Patent are also involved. U.S. Design patents are classified into 33 classes of subject matter and 5 of those subject matters are related to food and agricultural law.
Food Justice
Thursdays, 1:00 – 3:00
April 3 - 24
Survey of the legal and policy issues raised by the food justice movement. Topics covered include food insecurity and poverty, public health concerns such as obesity, the economics of healthy eating, food deserts, and food waste.
Agricultural Bankruptcy
Condensed Course
Tuesday -  Friday, Feb. 18 – 28
9:00 – 11:00

Introduction to bankruptcy through consideration of farm financial stress and agricultural bankruptcy, including focus on Chapter 12 reorganization

2014 - Off to an Exciting Start with the AALS Presentation on Food Law & Policy

Best wishes to all for a Happy 2014.

For the LL.M. Program in Agricultural & Food Law, we are off to a particularly good start.

I was pleased to represent the Program at the Association of American Law Schools (AALA) Annual Meeting in New York City, January 2-5.  I presented at the AALS Agricultural & Food Law Section Educational Session, and I was pleased to have two of our distinguished alumni by my side on the panel.  Michael Roberts, Executive Director of the new Resnick Program for Food Law and Policy at UCLA School of Law spoke about the new initiatives on the horizon for his Program, and Alli Condra, a Fellow with the Food Law and Policy Clinic at Harvard Law School spoke about the important food policy work the Clinic is doing.

Our panel was organized by our Visiting Professor, Professor Neil Hamilton, the Dwight D. Opperman Chair of Law and the Director of the Agricultural Law Center at Drake University Law School. Unfortunately, bad weather prevented Neil from joining us.  Professor Jay Mitchell, law professor and the Director of the Organizations and Transactions Clinic at Stanford Law School was also unable to make the trip due to weather.

Despite record cold and about six inches of snow in New York City, our panel session was very well attended. Law professors from throughout the country joined us to talk about ways to teach food law & policy and how to integrate it into the law school curriculum.  Clearly, food law & policy studies are gaining ground as an exciting development in legal education.

As Melissa Mortazavi, Visiting Assistant Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School, reported on the Food Law Professors blog that I administer and on Agricultural Law, the official blog of the AALS Agricultural and Food Law section,
One consistent thread emerged: food is everything-- meaning every kind of law, in all types of practice-- and the opportunities to explore food law and policy in the law school setting are varied and compelling. Some schools have taken on helping small food related business through providing practical how-to publications or support through their transactional legal services clinics. Some professors teach food law through courses like administrative law where they draw heavily on food related case law and regulations. Others are engaging with international food law through direct services; at Wake Forest, Barbara Lentz led a team of students this month to Nicaragua to help local farmers meet certification requirements for U.S. food imports.
We are proud that our LL.M. Program continues to provide leadership in this important emerging area of law.  We offer the only advanced legal degree program in the country that integrates the legal study of our food system, from production through consumption, literally from farm to fork.  And, we look forward to offering our expanded curriculum beginning next Fall to residential students and distance students as well.

In addition, we continue to serve in a leadership role in the academy by organizing and administering the Food Law Professors listserv and blog.