Monday, January 09, 2012

AALS Agricultural Law Presentation: Obama Administration Initiatives

Michelle ObamaThe American Association of Law Schools (AALS) Agricultural Law Section met at the AALS Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, January 7, 2012 and a panel presentation was delivered. The presentation focused on agricultural and food law initiatives undertaken by the Obama administration. The section also unanimously voted to change the name of the section to “Agricultural and Food Law,” recognizing the essential link between our agricultural laws and our food system.

The section was pleased to host a special guest on its panel, Janie Simms Hipp, Senior Advisor to Secretary Vilsack on Tribal Relations and Director of Office of Tribal Relations at USDA. Ms Hipp spoke on civil rights initiatives at the USDA including the settlement of the In re Black Farmers case involving late claims in the prior Pigford case and the settlement of the Keepseagle class action discrimination case brought on behalf of Native American farmers.
Professor Alison Peck from the University of West Virginia College of Law spoke on environmental issues under the USDA, focusing on the recent approval of a number of genetically modified crops and the difficulty Secretary Vilsack has had in achieving “co-existence” between GM and non-GM production. Professor Peck will chair our section for the coming year and will plan next year's panel presentation.

My role on the panel was to consider issues related to food, and I focused specifically on the initiatives undertaken by the Obama administration that reflect a contrast with the prior administration. I highlighted three categories of initiatives: 1) The active promotion of local and regional food systems; 2) The establishment of prevention as the primary focus of the government’s efforts to promote food safety; and, 3) The development of coordinated nutrition policies to address health issues, and in particular childhood obesity.

Before considering these initiatives, I set the stage by reviewing the forces at work in influencing our food system, highlighting the advocates for change and those with vested interests that are often threatened by reform.

The podcast for our presentation will be available in the future, and we hope to post it on this blog. In the meantime, the slideshow from my presentation is posted here.

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