Saturday, April 30, 2011

Agricultural & Food Law at the University of New Hampshire

The University of New Hampshire School of Law has a variety of innovative agricultural and food law activities.  Professor Margaret Sova McCabe provided me with information about these activities, and I am happy to include them in our reporting about law school initiatives.  Professor McCabe has focused much of her writing in the area of food and agricultural law and has been active in the AALS Agricultural Law section.

Professor McCabe teaches Agriculture and Food Law Topics. The course surveys diverse topics from "veggie libel" to genetically engineered crops to obesity regulation.  Professor McCabe reports that her goal in the course is "to show students how basic concepts learned in torts, contracts, administrative law, and other courses apply to food and agriculture." Her students prepare presentations on topics, allowing them to explore their own interests in the area.  This year's presentations included SNAP and Food Affordability; Anti-Trust Issues in the Dairy Industry; and Regulating Sodium in the American Food Supply.

The class takes at least one field trip -  this spring they went to the University of New Hampshire Dairies in Lee and Durham, New Hampshire. UNH, the flagship of the university system, operates two dairies: one organic and one conventional. The purpose of the trip is to allow the students to understand how different regulatory systems produce different "real world" results. It is also an opportunity for students to connect with the food system outside of the classroom.  UNH Law is clearly proud of its agricultural law initiatives -  a recent UNH Law blog post highlights that dairy trip and present a great slide show of the students' experience.

This year UNH Law also offered its first Animal Law course. Taught by adjunct professor Trish Morris, who has an animal law practice, the class educates students about the many legal issues that relate to animals. The Animal Law class also participated in the dairy field trip.

Agricultural and food law has also made its way into the UNH School of Law clinics.  The Administrative Law Clinic is now helping the NH Department of Agriculture, Markets, and Food draft administrative rules.  Due to budget cuts, retirements, and other pressing duties the Department needed help with its rulemaking projects. Thanks to the efforts of NH Agriculture Commissioner Lorraine Merrill, NH State Veterinarian, Dr. Steve Crawford, and Professors Mary-Pilkington Casey and Margaret Sova McCabe, UNH School of Law is now providing the agency with rule drafts and related documents.

As the Memorandum of Agreement between the state and the school approaches its first anniversary, students have been working on NH’s beekeeping, animal population control, and marketing rules, along with the Department’s organizational and procedural rules. Students are able to experience rule drafting and gain understanding of the demands on a small, but essential, state agency. Students also come to understand the importance of agriculture to the state’s economy. The rulemaking project is exciting because it allows UNH Law students to participate in the administrative process while providing an essential service to the state, especially in tough fiscal times.

Another example of the innovative ways in which law schools are tapping into student interest in learning more about where their food comes from,  how its regulated, and how our legal system affects our food system.  Thanks, Margaret, for your work at UNH and for passing this report on to us!


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