If you are a Twitter user, hopefully you enjoyed following the thoughts of those of us in attendance at American Agricultural Law Association’s AALA’s annual meeting. I have a feeling that the sessions Ashley and I attended will spur some future blog posts and possibly Extension publications. Today, I’m in Oklahoma visiting my family’s farm and taking a few days off (this post was schedule to post before I left for New Mexico).
But even though I’m on vacation, I still want to break down our needs assessment results further to provide you with a Cliff Notes© version of the University of Maryland Extension (UME) survey results. To see a breakdown of the structured interview results please click here (I will add link in when it is created). This survey was conducted in the late summer of 2013 and was emailed to 109 UME agricultural faculty (county ag educators and state ag specialists), with 53 responding. The survey consisted of nine questions to gauge UME agricultural faculty’s thoughts on the legal issues impacting Maryland agriculture. They were asked which issues they receive the most phone calls for from producers, legal issues they thought were the most important to the agricultural community, outreach methods that would benefit producers, and risk management tools producers used. Finally, respondees indicated in which region of the state they operated (a copy of the survey is available at: https://extension.umd.edu/sites/default/files/_docs/programs/alep/UME%20Survey%20Instrument.pdf).
Charts 1 and 2 illustrate the top legal issues that UME faculty receive calls on and view as important. These issues follow the same pattern identified by producer groups, state government agencies, and others in the structured interviews; UME faculty identified many of the same top issues. The number of phone calls indicates legal issues related to the environment ranked as very important, aligning with the findings in the structured interviews. Some 57 percent of respondents reported receiving 10 or more calls on environmental issues in the last year, and another 40 percent of respondents received 1 to 9 calls. In addition, all UME faculty stated that environmental issues were either a “very important” or “important” issue facing Maryland farmers.
As in the ALEI structured interviews, UME respondents identified land use as the second most important legal issue. Over three-quarters of respondents considered land use issues very important to Maryland agriculture and an additional 15 percent considered it an important issue. In total, over 80 percent of the UME respondents had received phone calls on this issue. Other top issues according to the UME respondents were USDA programs. Eighty-eight percent of UME respondents identified receiving at least one phone call about USDA programs in the previous year. Only one-quarter of the structured interviewees, on the other hand, said USDA programs were an important legal issue facing Maryland producers.
Charts 3 and 4 show the issues not considered important by UME respondents or those that they did not receive a call on. Almost 92 percent of UME faculty responded that they had received no calls in the past year on discrimination issues, defined to include discrimination based on gender, age, ethnicity, race, disability, and so on by landlords or by the state or federal government (chart 3). A majority (over 50 percent) had received no phone calls on divorce, seed saving, debt, production contracts, and labor issues, and a majority of respondents also suggested that these issues were not “very important” or “important” (chart 4). This possibly means producers are turning to other sources besides Extension, or they may actually not be problems.
In a future post, I will break down the results of types of educational outreach UME respondents thought would be most effective in reaching the Maryland agricultural community. How closely do the results of the UME survey match your thoughts on issues facing the Maryland agricultural community? Remember to help us further understand the legal issues impacting the Maryland agricultural community; ALEI will be conducting a survey of the Maryland agricultural producers in January and February of 2015. If you are a producer and selected to participate in this survey, please remember to respond and help us get a better grasp on the legal issues affecting you.