University of Maryland Extension

In The News: Farmers applaud agriculture law initiative

(The following article appeared in the Frederick News-Post Monday, June 30)

The Agriculture Law Education Initiative launched a little more than a year ago, and farmers like the measure state lawmakers founded on a $250,000 budget.

In 2011, the Maryland General Assembly tasked the university system with developing a program that helps preserve Maryland’s family farms, and in 2012, the initiative was started.

The project recognizes that agriculture is vital to the economic health of Maryland and is intended to help farmers address legal issues associated with agricultural estates and trusts, regulatory compliance, and other public policies, according to the University of Maryland.

The project provides Maryland farmers with the information they need to comply with laws and policies protecting the state’s food system and environment, the University of Maryland states on its website.

Farmers have applauded the program.

“I think it’s great that something is being done to preserve farms,” Tuscarora dairy farmer and Maryland Farm Bureau President Chuck Fry said. “A lot is being done about the environment, and people are confused. They don’t think that farmers and the environment go together. Farmers are great environmentalists.”

He hopes the project works as it is intended, Fry said.

The ag law initiative, in conjunction with the newly formed Maryland State Bar Association Special Committee on Agriculture Law, recently published the 2014 Legal Services Directory, which lists committee members who provide services and information related to the law and agricultural practices. The directory includes full contact information, practice areas and counties served.

“From the outset of the Agriculture Law Education Initiative, one of the resources Maryland farmers requested most often was a directory of Maryland lawyers working in agriculture law,” Barbara Gontrum said in a statement. Gontrum is associate dean at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.

“By supporting the private bar, the Agriculture Law Education Initiative hopes to build capacity in agriculture law in the state and help meet the legal needs of farmers.”

The ag initiative is a collaboration of three Maryland institutions — the Francis King Carey School of Law at the University of Maryland, Baltimore; the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Maryland, College Park; and the College of Agricultural and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore.

A new information line, 410-706-7377, established by the Agriculture Law Education Initiative directs callers to legal information resources related to their agricultural operation.

More information on the Agriculture Law Education Initiative is at http://extension.umd.edu/alei.

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