Regulatory compliance, right-to-farm laws and estate planning are among the legal challenges facing Maryland’s 12,800 farmers, according to preliminary research done by members of the University of Maryland Agriculture Law Education Project (ALEP).
ALEP is a year-long collaboration among the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and two other University of Maryland institutions: the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at UM College Park and the School of Agriculture and Natural Sciences at UM Eastern Shore. Its purpose is straightforward: to assess the legal needs of Maryland’s rural communities. The effort was launched with a one-year $250,000 appropriation from the Maryland General Assembly.
“The assessment process has been enlightening for all of us,” said Teresa LaMaster, associate dean for planning and external affairs at Maryland Carey Law. ALEP participants have, in less than a year, met with 50 stakeholder groups and government officials across the state; begun to survey 75 members of the Maryland Extension Service; and distributed educational material for farmers on Maryland’s right-to-farm law and estate planning.
As the assessment continues, the project will take more steps to address legal needs. Next spring, for example, Maryland Carey Law Professor Michael Pappas will offer Food, Farming and Sustainability, a seminar exploring the law impacting food and its production. In cooperation with the University of Maryland Extension and the Center for Agricultural and Natural Resource Policy at University of Maryland College Park, ALEP has developed publications and offered workshops on crop insurance, leasing, and right-to-farm. It is exploring new curricula for UM Extension educators; an affiliation with a national “ask-an-expert” network; and the development of a web site to provide easy access to ALEP’s research and other national resources.