Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ohio Agricultural Law Symposium

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of addressing the Ohio Agricultural Law Symposium sponsored by The Ohio State University and the Ohio State Bar Association. My invitation came from Peggy Kirk Hall, a colleague from the American Agricultural Law Association (AALA). Peggy is the Director of the Agricultural and Rural Law Program at The Ohio State University Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics. Her leadership and organizational skills were clearly evident in the quality of the symposium, and I thank her for the opportunity to participate.

The conference was held at the new Nationwide and Ohio Farm Bureau 4H Center, a beautifully designed LEED certified building on The Ohio State Campus. The pictures shown highlight just a few of the "green" features of this impressive conference center. 1) Some of the building's structure, including studs and girders, was made from recycled steel. Its highly reflective roofs helps to ease summer cooling costs. 2) Ninety-percent of the center’s space has natural light, reducing the energy needed for artificial light.

Prior to the conference, I had an opportunity to meet with a wonderful group of Ohio students. We discussed "agricultural law" as it is sometimes misunderstood in non-agricultural communities. And, we discussed ways of recasting the description of our work in a more inclusive manner to better portray its diversity and complexity. This discussion and the students' perspectives reaffirmed the wisdom of our decision at the University of Arkansas School of Law to expand the name of our program to The LL.M. Program in Agricultural and Food Law.

We also discussed ways that universities can better teach the challenging and relevant subjects included within agricultural and food law. The students had excellent ideas regarding the need for more interdisciplinary approaches and distance collaborations. They provided innovative suggestions for bridging the gap between rural and non-rural residents. My thanks to long-time agricultural law attorney and AALA leader, Paul Wright for his support through the Paul L. Wright Chair Fund in Agricultural Law for the scholarships provided to the students, enabling them to attend the conference. The students' discussion of the need for additional coursework in agricultural and food law inspired me to press on with my agricultural and food law book.

At the conference, I was delighted at the enthusiasm that the participants had for learning more about food law. There were so many excellent questions raised regarding food safety issues, I had to rush through some of the other parts of my PowerPoint presentation. It is always a pleasure to address an engaged audience!

Other morning conference presentations provided information on climate change legislation presented by Kevin Braig, Dinsmore & Shohl and an update from the Ohio State Department of Agriculture presented by William Hopper, Chief Counsel of the department. The latter included an update on the state regulation of milk labeling and rBST, an issue now before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Afternoon presentations included the Honorable Justice Paul E. Pfeifer, Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court who provided a review of recent Ohio decisions affecting agriculture. And, a review of developments and panel discussion was presented by Justice Pfeifer, Federal District Court Judge Gregory L. Frost, and Logan County Court of Common Pleas Judge Mark S. O'Connor. The conference concluded with a survey of recent state proposals and enactments on farm animal care and an overview of the Ohio debate on this hotly contested issue by Peggy Hall.


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10/14/2009 10:41 AM  

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