University of Maryland Extension

Interviewing Maryland Leaders of Agriculture-Related Non-Profits and Government Agencies

During April and May of 2013, members of the Agriculture Law Education Project team conducted in-depth, one-on-one structured interviews with 23 leaders from a wide range of statewide agriculture-related non-profit and government organizations.  The purpose of these interviews was to develop a broad-brush understand of the current legal challenges facing Maryland’s farmers and begin to develop ideas for how identified legal needs might be addressed.  Interviewees identified environmental, land use, nuisance/right-to-farm, and MDA programs as the biggest legal challenges impacting Maryland farmers.

Twenty-three interviews were conducted representing the different regions and types of agriculture in the state.  Environmental issues and land use issues were both mentioned the most by interviewees.  Seventy-eight percent of interviewees mentioned these issues as important (Figure 1).  These two issues also were the top legal issues identified by University of Maryland Extension (UME) faculty impacting Maryland agriculture.  Legal issues related to nuisance and the state’s right-to-farm law were also considered important by almost 70 percent of interviewees.  Similar to our survey of UME faculty, legal issues related to Maryland Department of Agriculture programs were considered challenges facing Maryland agriculture by 65 percent of interviewees (Figure 1).  Although UME faculty ranked United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs as a very important issue facing Maryland agriculture, only 23 percent of interviewees responded that USDA programs were considered a legal challenge (Figure 1).  More than half (52 percent) saw legal issues related to marketing and diversification to be big challenges facing Maryland agriculture.  Less than half (43 percent) saw legal issues related to business planning, leasing, and food safety to be challenges in Maryland.  Legal issues related to labor (35 percent), risk management (30 percent), and animal welfare (17 percent) were seen as legal challenges by a few of the respondents.

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