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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture
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Vermont Law School’s New Agriculture Center Supported by $1.25 Million Grant

January 24, 2012 |

An anonymous $1.25-million grant is being used toward Vermont Law School’s new Center for Agriculture and Food Systems, which focuses on legal and policy issues related to community-based agriculture, the school announced.

Vermont Law School said the role of the center is to “provide support for community-based agricultural systems, sustainable agriculture advocates, agencies, food hubs, incubators and farmers.” The center focuses on issues such as food regulation, the Farm Bill and agricultural subsidies, energy-efficient food production and energy independence for farmers.

With the grant—which will be distributed over a four-year period—the center will have the resources to hire a director with national experience. It will also be able to expand its agricultural law and policy curriculum and training, research and support programs.

“This generous grant recognizes the Vermont Law School’s growing strength in agricultural law and policy,” said Professor John Echeverria, acting director of the Environmental Law Center.

The new director will work with Vermont Law School’s environmental faculty, Food and Agricultural Law Society students, alumni who work in organizations that deal with agriculture and food policy, and a network of national and international advisors, the school said in its announcement.

The new center is also involved in other activities. It is continuing research and education projects, such as “The Farmer’s Handbook for Energy Self-Reliance,” which reaches more than 4,000 farmers and is taken to more than a dozen farmer’s forums and conferences across the country. The center is also organizing agriculture-related conferences such as the 2010 Food, Fuel and the Future of Farming.

The center supports research in sustainable agriculture and food issues by hosting a Sustainable Food Systems Summer Scholar during the school’s summer session. This year’s scholar will be University of Wisconsin Law School professor Stephanie Tai, an expert on the role of environmental and health sciences in developing regulatory safeguards, according to Vermont Law School.  Last year’s scholar—the program’s first—was Mary Jane Angelo, a professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law and a former senior attorney for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Vermont Law School lists recent projects supported by the center as “a study of regulatory barriers to grain production in Vermont, the Open Space Vermont blog, and a survey of property tax incentives for U.S. agricultural lands.”

“This center is unique in its focus on sustainable food, food safety and the regulatory, tax and governance systems that support agricultural policy,” said Vermont Law School Dean Jeff Shields.

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