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Delmarva Farmer Columnists

 

Legal needs of Maryland ag community (Nov. 25, 2014)

Ag Law

By Paul Goeringer, University of Maryland’s Center for Agricultural and Natural Resource Policy

This month, I’m taking a break from discussing a legal issue with you and focusing on a recently completed legal needs assessment from the Agricultural Law Education Initiative.
The report was prepared by Wanding Zhang, former ALEI members Lori Lynch and William Pons, and ALEI members Stephan Tubene and myself.
The report is based on 22 structured interviews of representatives from agricultural, waterman, natural resource and environmental groups and leaders in state government, and a survey of University of Maryland Extension agricultural faculty to gain a better understanding of Maryland agriculture’s legal needs.
For those interested in reading it, see http://bit.ly/mdaglaw1 to access the full report.
So why do a legal needs assessment? When ALEI was formed in early 2013, we were given the broad directive by the General Assembly to assist the state’s agricultural producers with trusts and estates issues, compliance with environmental laws, and other issues necessary to preserve Maryland family farms.
Understanding the issues surrounding preservation of Maryland’s family farms is a very broad directive and the group determined that a needs assessment was necessary to get a handle on the exact legal issues impacting Maryland agriculture.
So, what do the results show us?
Well, many of you can guess that legal issues related to the environment and land use were the top two issues in both the structured interviews and the UME survey.
Other common issues included legal issues related to Maryland Department of Agriculture programs, business planning, and food safety legal issues.
To see a complete list of legal issues from the structured interviews and the UME survey, please check out the full report.
To me, the interesting issues are those that did not rank near the top.
Maryland is home to 2,519 poultry operations, but concerns over production contracts ranked near the bottom of responses in the structured interviews.
Interviewees were not asked for an explanation why issues related to production contracts were not challenges to Maryland poultry producers.
But with the UME survey, production contracts ranked near the top for those UME ag faculty located on the Eastern Shore.
In the UME survey, we asked ag faculty which forms of outreach would work best in Maryland.
Forms of outreach given ranged from read a fact sheet, to attend a meeting in their home county, attend a meeting 75 to 100 miles from home, participate in a webinar, or watch an online video.
For the majority of issues, the top form of outreach was attend a meeting in their home county, followed by view a fact sheet, watch an online video, participate in a webinar, and attend a meeting 75 to 100 miles from home.
Understanding the best form of outreach is important for a new group, such as ALEI.
We can potentially have the greatest impact by utilizing outreach methods that will reach the largest audience.
But as many of you know, you may not realize you have a legal issue till you are facing it, so county meetings may not always be effective unless many are facing that issue at the same time.
A mix of fact sheets, county meetings, and online videos is potentially the best way to address legal issues.
With this mix, we will have available a series of relevant resources that will help you better understand the legal issues you are facing.
I think the biggest take away for me is the flexibility that ALEI will need in addressing this diverse set of legal needs.
We have to take into account that important legal issues impacting agriculture in Washington or Frederick counties may not be the same important legal issues impacting agriculture in Somerset and Wicomico counties.
At the same time, we have to be willing to develop a mix of outreach tools allowing access to information when it is relevant, in a useful format.
Take a moment, read the needs assessment report, and let us know: Did we get close? Should we be focusing on other issues?
We realize that legal needs will change over time — since we have done this needs assessment, data ownership has become a hot issue in agriculture.
E-mail your thoughts to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Economic Impact Initiative Grant Program (Nov. 25, 2014)

Keeping the Farm

By Dr. Basil Gooden, State Director, USDA Rural Development, Virginia

USDA Rural Development offers many great programs to assist rural citizens and towns.
However, one that sometimes goes without much utilization in other parts of the United States is the Economic Impact Initiative Grant Program.
We here in Virginia typically rank in the top category of states in the utilization of these funds mainly because they can be used to fund so many useful items in the Rural Community.
Economic Impact Initiative Grants can be used to assist in the development of essential community facilities.
Funds can be used in combination with regular Community Facility Loans to construct, enlarge or improve community facilities for health care, public safety and community and public services.
Some real world examples of uses that have been paid for with these funds are assisted living facilities, hospital improvements, outpatient clinics, fire station construction, fire trucks and police car purchases, library construction and expansion, jail expansion, adult and child daycare, infrastructure for industrial parks, animal shelters and telemedicine, just to name a few.
Grants are available to public entities such as municipalities, counties, and special-purpose districts, as well as non-profit corporations and tribal governments.
In addition, applicants must have the legal authority necessary for construction, operation and maintenance of the proposed facility and also be unable to obtain needed funds from commercial sources at reasonable rates and terms.
The amount of grant assistance depends upon the median household income, the population in the community where the project is located and the availability of grant funds.
Each year states are provided an allotment of funds and the projects are scored competitively with smaller communities receiving the highest priority.
For more information on the Economic Impact Initiative Grants, contact either Janice Stroud-Bickes at 804-287-1615 or Barbara Hodges at 804-287-1601.
An overview of each Rural Development program is also available on the web at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/.