Saturday, January 31, 2015

Six Months of Freedom: Documentary from Ukraine

Our thoughts continue to be with our friends, colleagues, and alumni in Ukraine.

Professor Kelley is currently in Kyiv, Ukraine teaching a short course in negotiations and meeting with colleagues there.  He sent us a link to a documentary film project that is a pro bono initiative of the Inyurpolis Law Firm (ILF), a law firm that he is affiliated with as a consultant. ILF is based in Kharkiv, Ukraine. The project is called Six Months of Freedom, and they released the first of a series of independent films that will be produced. The project's stated objective is "to create an information platform free from politics and vested interest of media moguls, as well as to develop independent media and documentary films."

This first film tells the stories of the doctors and nurses of the Kharkiv military hospital, the Kharkiv volunteers, and the injured Ukrainian soldiers.  Professor Kelley describes the documentary as providing "a look at the war that you will not see elsewhere."

We were moved by the documentary, and it is posted here for your review.  Note that it is in Ukrainian, with English subtitles. Many of the images and the human spirit depicted transcend language.



Monday, January 26, 2015

Visiting Prof Bill Marler Featured in the New Yorker Magazine

This week's New Yorker Magazine contains an important article on food safety, A Bug in the System, Why Last Night's Chicken Made You Sick.  While the article discusses salmonella bacterial contamination of chicken and our regulatory system, it is also a tribute to our visiting professor, Bill Marler. It describes his practice, his entry into the food safety litigation world, and the incredible influence that he has had.

Consider the following excerpt from the article -
Robert Brackett, who directed food safety at the F.D.A. during the George W. Bush Administration, told me that Marler has almost single-handedly transformed the role that lawsuits play in food policy: “Where people typically thought of food safety as this three-legged stool—the consumer groups, the government, and the industry—Bill sort of came in as a fourth leg and actually was able to effect changes in a way that none of the others really had.” Hagen [former head of USDA FSIS] said the cost that Marler extracts from food makers “can be a stronger incentive or disincentive than the passing of any particular regulation.” Mike Taylor [highest food safety official at the FDA] called litigation such as Marler’s “a central element of accountability.”
Bill teaches a 1-credit class for us most years, flying in and teaching for 2 full days without any compensation. This year, he is flying in with his law partner, Denis Stearns and will be here February 23-24. We are grateful for his support and all looking forward to his visit.

Vade Donaldson, Food Access Programs Manager, Washington State Farmers Market Association

We continue to receive updates on our Alumni. The good news continues, this time from LL.M. Graduate Vade Donaldson.

LL.M. Alumnus Vade Donaldson serves as the Food Access Programs Manager at the Washington State Farmers Market Association (WSFMA). WSFMA is a state-wide membership association that supports 113 farmers markets across Washington. Each year, WSFMA holds an annual conference. This year, the conference, "Market Value: Healthy Communities & Thriving Farms", is in Olympia, WA on Feb. 6-8.

Vade reports that his work is focused on making it easier for beneficiaries of food assistance to shop at farmers markets across the state.  Much of this work is done through the "Regional Leads Program", which connects local government agencies and community nonprofits with farmers markets that serve low income communities using federal food assistance benefits.




Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Emily Bridges Accepts Attorney Position With Arkansas Department of Human Services

We are pleased to report that our LL.M. alumna, Emily Bridges now serves as an Attorney Specialist with the Office of Chief Counsel for the Arkansas Department of Human Services.

In this new position, Emily will represent the agency in legal proceedings, conducting legal research and writing legal documents for use in litigation and providing legal assistance to the agency.  She will also be preparing the agency's legal briefs, motions, and other pleadings, analyzing and interpreting state and federal laws, advising the agency on potential legal issues and offering a legal opinion on actions the agency may take in resolving legal issues.  In addition, she may be called upon to draft proposed legislation, amendments to current legislation, and amendments to agency regulations.

We are excited for this new opportunity for Emily. We know she will represent the Department of Human Services with excellence.

Emily has her B.A. in Political Science, magna cum laude from Lyon College in Batesville, Arkansas, her J.D. from the University of Arkansas School of Law, and her LL.M. in Agricultural & Food Law from the University of Arkansas School of Law.



Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Ben Thomas, Chief of Staff, USDA Farm and Foreign Ag Services

Ben Thomas LL.M. Program in Agricultural and Food Law USDA Chief of Staff FFAS
At the end of December, 2014, LL.M. alumnus Ben Thomas joined the USDA as Chief of Staff for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services.

Farm and Foreign Agricultural  Services

Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services "helps to keep America's farmers and ranchers in business as they face the uncertainties of weather and markets."  Agencies within Farm and Foreign Services include:
  • Farm Service Agency (FSA), the agency that  implements agricultural policy, administers credit and loan programs, and manages conservation, commodity, disaster and farm marketing programs through a national network of offices;
  • Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), the agency that develops foreign market access for U.S. products, building new markets and improving the competitive position of U.S. agriculture in the global marketplace; and, 
  • Risk Management Agency (RMA), the agency that provides coverage through the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation, promoting national welfare by improving the economic stability of agriculture.

Before joining USDA, Ben served as Senior Advisor and Counsel to Senator John Walsh, where he was responsible for agriculture, telecommunication, and trade issues. Ben previously served as Legislative Assistant to Senator Max Baucus. As Mr. Baucus’ lead negotiator on the 2014 Farm Bill, Ben played a key role in development of the new farm programs. He also worked at USDA in various capacities at the Farm Service Agency and Risk Management Agency.

Ben received his B.A. from Austin College in Sherman, Texas, his Juris Doctor from Washington University in St. Louis, and his LL.M. in Agricultural and Food Law from the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He was raised on a family farm outside of Morton, Texas, where his father and brother still farm.

We are proud of the work Ben has done in Washington and wish him well in this new and important position at USDA. Congratulations, Ben.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

LLM Alum Blake Rollins Joins Senator Boozman's Staff

We are delighted to announce that Blake Rollins, an alumnus of the University of Arkansas Law School and the LL.M. Program in Agricultural & Food Law has joined Senator John Boozman's staff in Washington, D.C.

Blake will serve as a Legislative Assistant, advising the senator on agriculture and tax policies. The Senator's press release includes this comment from Blake,

“As an Arkansan, it’s an honor to work for Senator Boozman. He is dedicated to serving Arkansas every day, and I am excited to join his team.” 

And, Senator Boozman's statement,

“Blake is a great addition to my team. His connection to Arkansas and his unique understanding of agriculture and the policies that shape our state’s number one industry will benefit agribusinesses and producers.  I appreciate Blake’s dedication, hard work, enthusiasm and commitment to improving Arkansas.”

Before joining Senator Boozman's office, Blake served as counsel at the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture. Prior to his work on the committee, Rollins held clerkship and externship positions in the public and private sector, including serving as an extern at Wal-Mart in renewable energy and emissions.

Rollins earned his B.A. from Taylor University and his J.D. and LL.M. in Agriculture and Food Law at the University of Arkansas. He is a member of the Arkansas Bar.  Congratulations, Blake!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Aaron Thompson Appointed Assistant Attorney General, Arizona Department of Agriculture

Aaron Thompson, Assistant Attorney General 
I am pleased to report that one of our alumni, Aaron Thompson, now serves as Assistant Attorney General and Counsel to the Department of Agriculture for the state of Arizona. In addition to representing the Department, he also represents the Office of Pest Management and several state boards whose purpose relate to agriculture.

Aaron's duties include providing general agency advice, assisting in rule making, reviewing contracts, interpreting statutes and rules, reviewing potential administrative enforcement actions, advising on grant programs, attending board meetings, and assisting with open meeting law compliance. His work includes representing the agencies throughout administrative hearings and during litigation.

We are delighted to have Aaron in this important position and confident he will provide excellent representation.  Congratulations, Aaron.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Spring Semester Classes Offer Variety and Specialization


Each semester when we prepare the class schedule, I am amazed at the breadth of agricultural and food law as a discipline.  While some may think of it as a narrow specialty, nothing could be farther from the truth.  Spring Semester classes provide a clear example. 

Consider our Spring 20015 class offerings in the LL.M. Program in Agricultural & Food Law at the University of Arkansas School of Law: 



Environmental Regulation of Agriculture 

Examination of  the major federal environmental statutes applicable to agricultural operations with attention to current cases and controversies under those laws.  It also explores the regulatory authority and enforcement practices of the EPA and other agencies.


Regulated Markets in Agriculture 

Study of the economic regulation of specific sectors of the agricultural industry focusing on perishable agricultural commodities (fruits & vegetables), dairy products, and 
the Packers & Stockyards Act.


Agricultural Perspectives

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, environmental, and economic issues, considering their origin and how history is reflected in today’s policies. 


Food Safety Litigation

Special condensed course taught by the leaders in food safety litigation:  
Bill Marler and Denis Stearns of Marler Clark.


Farmed Animal Welfare Law

Examination of the legal issues involved in determining welfare standards for animals raised for food. In addition to introducing federal animal welfare and humane slaughter laws, state referenda, state law standards, and so-called “ag gag” laws are introduced.  


Selected Issues in Agricultural & Food Law 

This specialized class combines current legal and policy issues in a cohesive study. 
This semester our topic is Agricultural Business Issues.


Food Justice Law & Policy

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 Labor Law

Study of the legal, social, and economic issues that arise from the extensive use of migrant labor in U.S. agricultural operations. Topics include agricultural exemptions from labor laws, the Migrant & Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, and agriculture’s reliance on undocumented workers.


Legal Issues: Indigenous Food & Agriculture 

Exploration of the complex interaction of tribal law, treaties, and federal agricultural and food laws, including property law applicable to tribal lands.


Global Food Security

Survey of the role of law and policy in affecting problems of global food security in the face of increasing population, changing diets, environmental pressures, and climate change.


Special Topics: Food Labeling  and Food Safety 

Advanced study of emerging issues in food labeling and food safety, building on what we covered in our Fall semester Food Law & Policy class. 


Agricultural Biotechnology

Study of the regulation of agricultural biotechnology, including the approval process for new technologies, the patenting of new products and technologies, and the 
restrictions associated with their use.


Intellectual Property for Agricultural & Food Products

Study of the intellectual property laws and treaties that apply to the identification of food and agricultural products.


Local/Regional Food Systems & the Law 

This course examines efforts to re-establish local and regional food systems and explores the attendant legal and policy issues.  Taught by nationally recognized agricultural and food law scholar, Neil Hamilton from Drake University Law School, this year's class will involve a look at land tenure issues, how access to farmland affects beginning farmers, and 
how land tenure affects our food system.






Monday, January 12, 2015

Lauren Bernadett Joins Somach, Simmons and Dunn

We are pleased to report that LL.M. Candidate Lauren Bernadett (Class of 2014) now serves as an attorney for Somach Simmons and Dunn, a Sacramento-based law firm that specializes in environmental, agricultural, and water law issues. Lauren's work will focus on water resources, water quality, natural resources, and agricultural resources. Congratulations, Lauren!

Lauren served as Graduate Assistant to the LL.M. Program while she was with us, with work that included posts to this blog, preparing the AALA 2013 Food Law Update, and co-authoring a chapter for an ABA book on urban agriculture (with Nicole Civita and Susan Schneider). She completed an independent study under the direction of Professor Allen Olson on the water rights doctrine of equitable apportionment, writing an article on current developments in the U.S. Supreme Court.

After the Program, Lauren was selected as a California Sea Grant Fellow with the California State Lands Commission (CSLC) in Sacramento.  We are delighted to have her now turn to private practice. Her clients will be well served.