University of Maryland Extension

New Report Highlights Legal Challenges Facing Maryland’s Agricultural Community

Image Credit: 
Edwin Remsberg

The Maryland agricultural community is facing a diverse and complex set of legal challenges, but experts with the Agriculture Law Education Initiative (ALEI) now have a better understanding of priority problems and can begin to address them head-on. The ALEI recently published the results of a legal needs assessment for the state’s agricultural sector – the first of its kind in Maryland.

The needs assessment is based on 21 structured interviews conducted with leaders from the agricultural industry and state government. University of Maryland Extension faculty members working with agricultural producers were also surveyed for their input on a variety of legal needs. To date, Illinois is the only other state to complete a comparable survey on the subject.

The ALEI is a collaboration under University of Maryland: MPowering the State and combines the expertise and efforts of three distinguished Maryland institutions: the Francis King Carey School of Law at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB), the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD), and the School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore (UMES).

“This publication gave us the first set of priorities for ALEI to begin to address in helping the agricultural community of Maryland prosper,” said Dan Kugler, assistant dean for special programs at UMD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “It also showed us that the best way to deliver information is through face-to-face workshops and fact sheets.”

Barbara Gontrum, associate dean for academic affairs at Maryland Carey Law, noted that, “This research will help us expand ALEI’s already successful portfolio of fact sheets, presentations and other outreach efforts that provide information on estate planning, right-to-farm laws and other legal issues. With it, we can be an even more effective resource for individual farmers, the state’s agricultural community, and the members of the Maryland bar that serve them.”

The ALEI was created after the Maryland General Assembly gave the University System of Maryland a direct assignment in 2011: preserve Maryland's family farms by helping their owners address the complicated legal issues associated with agricultural estates and trusts, regulatory compliance, and other agricultural law issues.

“The biggest finding to me is that we learned Maryland agriculture as a whole has very diverse legal needs,” said Paul Goeringer, Extension legal specialist with UMD's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and co-author of the report. “There are some blanket statewide concerns but when we started breaking it down by region, we saw issues related to production contracts ranking near the top on the Eastern Shore and, as you go west, questions about land use and leasing rank near the top.”

The report is now available online.

“A central goal of the Initiative is to assist in the preservation of family farms,” says Dr. Stephan Tubene, associate professor at UMES and co-author of the report. “This needs assessment will better help the members of ALEI and the general public understand the legal issues impacting Maryland’s agricultural community and direct efforts to assist farmers.”  

Later this year and early next year, the ALEI will conduct another survey to determine if additional issues are impacting Maryland agricultural operations.

For more information, contact:

Paul Goeringer

University of Maryland, College of Agriculture & Natural Resources

lgoering@umd.edu; 301-405-3541

Barbara Gontrum

University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law

bgontrum@law.umaryland.edu; 410-706-7271

Stephan Tubene

University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Department of Agriculture, Food, and Resource Sciences

sltubene@umes.edu  410-651-7577

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