Monday, March 27, 2017

Allen Olson talks Agricltural Law on KUAF's Ozarks at Large podcast

Earlier this semester we blogged about long time friend and Alumnus Allen H. Olson returning to Fayetteville to teach a 3 day intensive course on Federal Farm Programs & Crop Insurance. While he was here, Professor Olson sat down with Kyle Kellams on Ozarks At Large to talk about Crop Insurance and what it means to practice Agricultural Law.

Listen to the full interview on the KUAF website.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Improving Our Food System, One Lawyer at a Time

Our vision in the Arkansas LL.M. Program has always been to bring people together.  Farm and food; rural and urban. East, west, and in between.  Most of our classes also include international perspectives - this year we have students from Saudi Arabia and South Korea.

If we talk to one another, we can usually find common ground and develop a better understanding of our own views as well as others.

What we teach is the law.  You need to know all sides of it if you want to be good at practicing it.

Our LL.M. classes provide the opportunity to explore the great diversity of food and agricultural issues -  to discuss, debate, and learn together about our food system.

Imagine a class where students from Texas get to discuss agricultural law and learn along with students from Oregon and New York City. Where students with a family tradition of farming can debate issues involving our food system with urban foodies. We bring together diverse voices united by their interest in our food system, from farm to fork.

I offer these thoughts because of the fond memories I have of a recent class (2011) that touched on all of these issues and perhaps best explains who we are.  One member of the class, Ben Thomas, was from Lubbock, Texas. After graduating from the LL.M. Program, Ben went to D.C. to work for the Senate Agriculture Committee and then served at USDA. He was recently appointed Commissioner of Agriculture in Montana.

The embedded video about Ben is what brought this all to mind.

Close friends with Ben were classmates Cassie Peters from the Oregon and Claire Mitchell from New York City.

Urban agriculture and local food systems are two of Cassie's special areas of expertise. She worked in West Virginia at Downstream Strategies and later served as the publisher of Florida Food and Farm magazine in Florida. Cassie is now back in Oregon running Cassie Peters Legal + Consulting, LLC where she provides comprehensive, thorough, and personalized legal services in the Willamette Valley and throughout Oregon. Her specialty is Cannabis law.

Claire Mitchell moved from New York City to Fayetteville, Arkansas to attend the LL.M. Program. Food law was and is her passion. Although as her photo reflects, she also loves mountain climbing.  Claire worked with the food safety firm, Marler Clark after the LL.M. Program and is now an Associate Attorney with Stoel Rives, LLP in Seattle, Washington. She's a business transactional and regulatory compliance attorney for the food, beverage, and hospitality industries, advising clients on product labeling, marketing, advertising, and packaging, product safety compliance strategies, state and federal liquor licensing matters, and commercial contract negotiation.

Three talented lawyers from three corners of the country, united by their interest in learning more about food and agriculture. Lifetime friendships formed.

Rest assured that I could easily expand this blog by describing the other great attorneys in the class or write a similar blog on another class year.

Making our food system stronger and more resilient, one lawyer at a time. We salute our wonderful alumni!

Susan Schneider

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Reflecting on the Arkansas LL.M.

The LL.M. Program in Agricultural & Food Law at the University of Arkansas School of Law is proud to describe the core aspects of our Program -  aspects that distinguish us from other programs and that reflect our approach to good legal education.

  • We have developed thirty five different substantive food and agricultural law courses, each of which has a discreet, prepared curriculum of study.  We also offer independent study credit and experiential learning opportunities in addition to these regular courses. However, while students can do research and work on their own for credit if they wish, our curriculum provides organized classes that far exceed the number of credits necessary for the LL.M. degree.  
  • The nineteen different LL.M. Program faculty who teach our courses are experienced agricultural and food law professionals from all over the country. We do not teach to one region or one policy agenda, we teach the law and provide our students with the tools needed to advance their advocacy interests. 
  • Our classes are designed specifically for LL.M. candidates, that is, students who have already earned a J.D. degree. We treat our students as the professionals that they already are. We allow a limited number of J.D. students to take some of our courses along with the LL.M. candidates, and we have occasionally allowed a graduate student or professional in a related field to join a specific class. But, our focus is directed toward attorneys seeking specialized education. 
  • Our distance education classes are carefully designed and approved by the experienced course design professionals at the University of Arkansas Global Campus.  Most offer the opportunity for synchronous instruction; all utilize a range of technologies and learning tools. 
  • We do not work with for-profit education companies. All tuition dollars stay with our land grant University.  Our tuition rates are among the most reasonable in legal education, and our students only pay for the courses that they take, when they take them.
  • Because our face-to-face program is still at the core of our studies, distance students are always welcome to come to Northwest Arkansas to join us when their schedule permits. Synchronous participation from a remote desktop is the next best thing, with our in-person classes recorded and available for later viewing.
  • Our experiential learning experiences place our candidates in individualized learning environments that match their interests. Examples of externships include the Sustainability Consortium, Walmart's Food Safety Compliance Unit, and Tyson Foods General Counsel's Office.  Through the new Practicum Program, we have organized remote connections for students with the NRDC, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and the Good Food Institute. Students can help design the program they want, with the organization that interests them. Whether the work is with a multinational corporation or a local non-profit, student learning is the focus of the project.
  • We are extremely proud of our network of alumni. With almost 250 Arkansas LL.M. graduates working throughout the agricultural and food law community, we have connections that circle the globe. We keep in touch with many of our alumni, we brag about their accomplishments on this blog, and we remain a resource for them. They support and encourage each new class of LL.M. candidates who are truly welcomed in to our professional family.
  • We welcome a small number of non-degree candidates to take some of our classes, allowing qualified students and professionals the opportunity to sample our curriculum and explore advanced legal education in the emerging areas of agricultural and food law.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Food Safety Litigation Course with Denis Stearns, Of Counsel at Marler Clark

Former Principal and Founding Partner of Marler Clark. LLP, PS, Denis Stearns offers a fast-paced look at Food Safety Litigation to Candidates in the LL.M. Program as part of a popular 2-day course.

The course offers an examination of food borne illness litigation with an initial introduction to food product liability followed by the study of actual cases brought against food manufacturers.

Denis Stearns was a founding partner of Marler Clark, LLP, PS, a Seattle-based law firm with a national practice devoted to the representation of persons injured by unsafe food and drink. He also works to promote food safety through educational speaking and pro bono consulting with the food industry. In addition, Professor Stearns teaches at Seattle University School of Law and is a recognized food law scholar.

Professor Stearns began his involvement in food-related litigation in 1993 as one of the lead defense attorneys handling the cases arising from the historic Jack in the Box E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in the Northwest United States. Mr. Stearns was responsible for designing and implementing a discovery plan that allowed Foodmaker to present a consistent and successful defense in over one hundred lawsuits spread among several states. In this role, he obtained extensive knowledge and experience in litigation that involves complex manufacturing systems, foodborne illnesses, and issues of quality control. He also became noted for a highly principled, but persistent, approach to the discovery process and is a frequent speaker and guest lecturer on ethics and the law. Since helping to found Marler Clark seventeen years ago, he has worked on hundreds of food outbreak cases, including recent ones involving E. coli O157:H7-contaminated Dole spinach, Salmonella in Peter Pan peanut butter and Banquet pot pies, and a spate of outbreaks involving E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef, Nestlé cookie dough, and raw milk.

Professor Stearns continues to work with Bill Marler and Marler Clark.  He is also the principal/owner of Stearns Law, PLLC, a law firm that focuses on consulting and working with food companies of multiple sizes, including advising on how to prepare for and respond to foodborne illness outbreaks, recalls, and regulatory compliance issues. A full biography is available here.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Food, Farming & Sustainability: The Website

Last August, Professor Susan Schneider published the 2nd edition of Food Farming & Sustainability: Readings in Agricultural Law. This book is designed as a text book for teaching a law school survey course, but it's also useful as an agricultural law resource.

As promised in the book, Professor Schneider developed a companion website that posts and links to resources that she uses in her teaching.  We are delighted to announce that she just completed a major upgrade to the website.  It's a public site with resources that are free and available to all.  

As reflected in the Notes from the Author, Professor Schneider created the website to supplement Food, Farming, & Sustainability and to provide additional resources for those who use it. It is not designed as a comprehensive clearinghouse of agricultural law materials. There are very few cases, and only a few scholarly articles. Rather, its a repository for some of the foundational resources that are most helpful in exploring the survey of topics within agricultural law. These resources include:
  • Congressional Research Service reports, providing helpful information to introduce and summarize complex agricultural topics; 
  • GAO Reports, providing critical analysis and often criticism of government activities;​
  • Agency reports, especially USDA ERS reports, providing key research and analysis from an agency perspective. 
In addition, the website provides links to that are helpful in updating and expanding the coverage.  

Please check it out.  And yes, you will see some photos' from Professor Schneider's family farm in Minnesota and some familiar faces from our classrooms. -  or go directly to Legal Resources

Friday, March 10, 2017

Summer Schedule Now Posted

Join us for one or all of our summer offerings. Get the details by clicking on our flyer below or contact us for more information at

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Lauren Handel-win for Dalmatia

Alumni Update: Lauren Handel

LL.M. Alumna Lauren Handel
LL.M. Alumna Lauren Handel of Handel Food Law LLC secures a win for her client, jam-maker Dalmatia Import Group, Inc. 

Our alumna, Lauren Handel is the principal attorney at Handel Food Law, a law firm that represents independent food and beverage companies. One of her clients is Dalmatia Import Group, Inc. Dalmatia is known for its award-winning fig spread and is recognized as the market leader in specialty fig jam products sold throughout the country at grocery stores and other food markets.  A year ago, Dalmatia discovered that two of its former business partners, New York-based FoodMatch, Inc. and Pennsylvania-based Lancaster Fine Foods, Inc., were working together to launch an impersonator jam called “Divina fig spread.” Around that same time, Dalmatia also learned that those same business partners had sold and distributed fig spread under Dalmatia’s label that was rejected by Dalmatia, and, in other instances, produced and sold fig spread under Dalmatia’s label in Dalmatia’s trademark jars without Dalmatia’s knowledge or consent.

Recognizing that complex federal litigation was needed, Lauren partnered with litigators from her
former law firm, McDermott Will & Emery to bring suit on behalf of her client.  The ensuing case involved trade secret misappropriation, trademark infringement, and counterfeiting claims. On February 24, 2017, the jury handed down a decisive verdict in favor of Dalmatia, the first obtained by a law firm under the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act, signed into law in 2016. The jury awarded about $2.5 million in damages. After trebling of damages for counterfeiting, as required by the Lanham Act, the total award is expected to be about $5 million.

The verdict has been reported throughout the business and legal press.  National Law Journal headlined, Jam Maker Jars $2.5M Verdict in Trade Secrets Case, and also mentioned all of the women on Dalmatia's legal team - "McDermott's Nadel was joined on the litigation by partner Natalie Bennett and associate Jennifer Routh, all of the firm's Washington, D.C., office, along with Lauren Handel of the Handel Food Law Firm. Except for Nadel, every member of Dalmatia's trial team was female, including the paralegal, the "hot seat" graphics coordinator and, of course, the client herself."

Lauren earned her bachelor of arts degree, cum laude, from the University of Maryland, College Park in 1997; her JD, cum laude, from Georgetown University Law Center in 2002; and an LL.M. in Agricultural and Food Law at the University of Arkansas School of Law in 2013. She is admitted to practice in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, the US Supreme Court, and the US District Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York.

In her previous role as a partner at McDermott Will & Emery LLP, her practice concentrated on product liability and environmental litigation, as well as workplace safety regulation. McDermott Will & Emery's announcement of the victory is available on their website.

After nearly 10 years of counseling and defending Fortune 50 companies, Lauren decided to put her skills and experience to work for independent businesses that produce the things she is most passionate about − good food and drink.  That brought her to our LL.M. Program and later to form Handel Food Law.  We are delighted with her success. 

For more on Lauren and her practice, visit the Handel Food Law website.

Friday, March 3, 2017

LLM Alum Richard Flournoy: Deputy Administrator for Product Management

LL.M. Alumnus, Richard Flournoy Appointed Deputy Administrator for Product Management

LL.M Alum Richard Flournoy now serves as USDA Risk Management Agency's Deputy Administrator for Product Management.  This position, based in Kansas City, involves oversight over the development of crop insurance policies, the rate structure, and other critical aspects of the federal crop insurance system.

Before taking this new position, Richard worked with USDA RMA in Washington, D.C. serving as Chief of Staff to another alumnus, Brandon Willis, in his role as USDA RMA Administrator.

We congratulate Richard on his service to USDA and to American farmers and are proud of his many accomplishments.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Alumna Marne Coit Teaching at NCSU

Alumni News: Marne Coit at North Carolina State University

LL.M. Alumna Marne Coit
Marne Coit, MSEL, JD, LLM (‘07) continues to teach in agricultural and food law. In August of 2016 she joined the faculty of the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. She teaches in the undergraduate program, and also advises students who are pursuing degrees in agribusiness management.
Marne notes that she appreciates being in a department that is focused on student success and provides the support students need to begin successful careers in agriculture. Marne was honored to be a recipient of the “Thank a Teacher” program of the NC State Office of Faculty Development in her first semester.
According to Department Head John Beghin, “It is critical that students learn the legal foundations of our agricultural systems in order to be successful, whether in their own agricultural or food businesses, or in careers working for companies that support these businesses. Marne brings a depth of knowledge in agricultural and food law to the position, which is a benefit to our students and our department.”
Marne’s work in agricultural law in the Department of ARE builds on the work of Professor Ted Feitshans, a well known agricultural law expert and former President of the American Agricultural Law Association, who retired last year. Marne expresses her appreciation for all the work that Ted did to build a solid agricultural law program at NC State.

Marne has been teaching since 2013, when she started teaching Food Systems Law & Policy, an online course in the Sustainable MBA program at Marylhurst University. The MBA in Sustainable Business is an accelerated online degree for working professionals. She also developed and taught the inaugural food policy class at Bard College in Spring 2016.