Thursday, February 19, 2015

Upcoming Event: Origin Products & Tribes

On Thursday, March 5th, IFAI Director Janie Hipp will join a team of academic and legal professionals gathering at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque for a discussion of intellectual property issues, rural development, and the differences in the laws and policies of United States and European Union countries on these critical issues. The panel will specifically be addressing American Origin Products and Geographical Indicators as vehicles for revitalizing rural development, as well as any legal protections these kinds of intellectual property laws can and cannot offer for Tribes seeking to utilize them.

Janie will be joined on the panel by Dr. Elizabeth Barham, Giulio Menato, and Mervyn Tano. Detailed speaker biographies for Janie and her colleagues are available online here, as is a full schedule for the panel.

The panel is free and open to the public, and there are several options to view or attend. Participants are welcome to join the panelists in person at the University of New Mexico in the Student Union Building (SUB), Ballroom A, on March 5th from 1:00-3:00pm MST. The panel is also offering a distance option in the form of a webinar. Directions on registration for in-person or webinar participation, as well as directions to the University of New Mexico, are available on the panel series website. A recording of the panel will also be made available online after the session concludes.

The panel should provide all attendees with an exciting discussion of these important issues. We hope to see you there!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Legal Issues in Indigenous Food & Ag: now in classroom format!

It's hard to believe we're already one month into 2015, but time speeds along with considerable alacrity when you're planning exciting new programming for the second annual Summer Leadership Summit for Native Youth in Agriculture, developing a series of webinars on credit repair and financial education, and-- as you probably guessed from the title of this post-- teaching, here at the University of Arkansas!

The Indigenous Food & Agriculture Initiative is very fortunate to be housed at the University of Arkansas inside the School of Law. Arkansas offers our staff a beautiful campus, a diverse University community with a rigorous agricultural education program, and a home within the School of Law's LL.M. Program in Agricultural & Food Law. Since 1980, the LL.M. program has produced lawyers with highly specialized training in the complexities of food and agricultural law. The program represents a dynamic educational opportunity for lawyers both new and experienced, with courses taught by an impressive roster of professors, visiting instructors, and alumni, and the Initiative staff benefits immensely from having that kind of expertise within shouting distance-- literally. The Initiative's offices are located on the same hallway as most of the LL.M. resident faculty, and it's not uncommon to hear several of us shouting to each other across the corridor about the felicities-- and the frustrations-- of food and ag law. We have a congenial and collaborative working environment here on the second floor of the law school, and we've found that more often than not, our work complements the work of our colleagues.

Recently, we've had the exciting opportunity to do more than call across the hall at our colleagues: for the first time in its thirty-year history, the LL.M. program in Agricultural & Food Law at the University of Arkansas is offering an advanced law course in Indigenous Food & Agriculture. For one hour every Friday, we have the privilege of teaching six students about the particularities of food and ag law that apply only in Indian Country.

While the course is designed to give our LL.M. candidates a landscape-level view of the legal issues relevant to excellent future legal practice in this space, we've done our best to ensure that the students understand that this particular legal landscape is not always easily traversed. After a few weeks in the course-- and with the class session on land use, land tenure, and land fractionation happening today-- it's safe to say they've got that part down.

As the course's primary instructor, IFAI Director Janie Hipp is thoroughly enjoying her return to the classroom, with her teaching experience enhanced not only by the years she spent teaching in multiple undergraduate and graduate colleges here at the University, but now informed also by her seven and a half years with USDA. The students are having a great time with her.

In addition to intensive lectures and classroom discussions with Janie-- and a few words now and then from this statistics-loving staff attorney, including a talk on the 2012 National Census of Agriculture data  (thanks, NASS!)-- the students have read materials from a host of people and organizations who have been working diligently for decades to support Indian Country producers and train the next generation of Native farmers, ranchers, and agribusiness professionals. Through our course, the LL.M. candidates have been introduced to the work of the Intertribal Agriculture Council, First Nations Development Institute, and Indian Land Tenure Foundation; they've read about the rich history of tribal producers and the present-day realities of operating in Indian Country. And yes-- we've had them read statutes and regulations, in abundance.

But it hasn't all been reading, of course. We've also had the joy of introducing our class to a series of guest speakers, with our first guest presenting this past Friday. Brian Ross (Cherokee), Director of Financial Education for the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians (OST), spoke about his work encouraging responsible money management in Indian Country, especially among Native youth. His initiatives include a robust financial education program for OST employees, enabling them to serve as ambassadors in their communities, train-the-trainer workshops for OST field staff, and the expansion of partnerships with tribal governments, schools, nonprofit organizations, and other federal agencies working in the area of financial education.

The LL.M. program's fantastic distance learning classroom has even made it possible for us to look well beyond the confines of the University campus and bring in some folks with a deep understanding of Indian Country food and agriculture. In the near future, the LL.M. candidates will have a chance to hear from Ross Racine (Blackfeet), Executive Director of the Intertribal Agriculture Council, and Zach Ducheneaux (Cheyenne River Sioux), Program Manager of IAC's Technical Assistance Network. Thanks to some fun new technology, our friends at IAC won't have to leave chilly Montana to give our students the benefit of their knowledge and experience. And later in the semester, our candidates will also be joined virtually by Christine Webber, a member of the class counsel legal team in Keepseagle v. Vilsack, for a discussion about litigating civil rights issues.

It has been an intensely busy but immensely rewarding first few weeks of class! As a recent LL.M. candidate myself, I'm so pleased about this course's addition to the program, and I'm delighted to have played a role in developing it. I hope we can continue to offer our LL.M. candidates the opportunity to learn what it means to be a food and ag lawyer in Indian Country.


Erin serves as the Initiative's Staff Attorney-- and occasional communications director, graphic designer, and statistics nerd. When she's not researching, tweeting, or reading NASS publications, you can find her writing about legal issues in food waste & recovery or papering her office walls with Post-it notes about the intricacies of federal budget law & policy.