Understanding the Diverse Legal Needs of the Maryland Agricultural Community
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Agriculture’s total impact on the Maryland economy was $8.25 billion in 2010, accounting for over 22,000 jobs. According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, Maryland had over 12,000 agricultural operations producing a diverse range of agricultural commodities: poultry, dairy, grain, equine, nursery, greenhouse products to name just a few. This article highlights results from a University of Maryland’s Agriculture Law Education Initiative (ALEI) needs assessment in 2013. The assessment provided the legal community a deeper understanding of the legal needs of the state’s agricultural producers. The assessment consisted of 23 structured interviews and a survey of University of Maryland Extension (UME) agricultural faculty. Legal issues related to environmental regulations, land use, Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) programs, business planning, and marketing and diversification ranked near the top on both the UME survey and the structured interviews. UME survey results show potential regional differences among the top legal issues. For instance, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, legal issues related to the environment, divorce, and debt were important, whereas in Southern Maryland legal issues related to the environment, estate planning, and business planning were seen as important. Finally, the survey results suggest the appropriate form of outreach on many of these issues.Results from the structured interviews and UME survey provide ALEI a wealth of information and understanding on the legal issues that impact the Maryland agricultural community. The information in this initial needs assessment will also aid attorneys, state agencies, members of the Maryland General Assembly, and other groups working with the state’s agriculture community in understanding the agricultural community’s legal issues.