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

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