Sarah Everhart Lay of the Law

For six years the Agriculture Law Education Initiative, a multi-institutional University of Maryland program that provides legal education to the agricultural community, has hosted a conference to discuss the complex legal issues that farmers grapple with regularly.

This year, due to ongoing uncertainty related to the global pandemic, ALEI is moving its annual conference online by hosting a three-week webinars series. The online sessions will be free of charge and run on Nov. 2, 9 and 16 from 2-4 p.m.

Farmers have faced myriad unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the conference will begin with a session focusing on the impact of COVID-19 on Maryland’s dairy industry and how dairy farmers managed the risks to their farms during the pandemic.

Katie Dotterer-Pyle, co-owner and farmer at Cow Comfort Inn Dairy and Creamery, and Lindsay Reames, from Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association, will share lessons learned about navigating supply chain disruptions, lost and changing markets, worker issues, insurance, and disaster relief programs. Regardless of what crop you raise, producers won’t want to miss these tips for adapting operations amid the pandemic.

The online session on Nov. 2 will also include the contentious topic of air quality monitoring of growers for Delmarva’s poultry industry. Holly Porter, executive director of Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc., and Samantha Campbell, president of the Campbell Foundation, will discuss the status of their joint project to monitor air emissions from poultry houses, what can be learned from the most recent air quality monitoring results, and the potential next steps for the project.

Sessions in the last two weeks of the online program will highlight regional water quality concerns and the local and federal legal frameworks for water quality improvements.

On Nov. 9, the sessions will focus on recent developments in the Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts, specifically the pending lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to enforce bay cleanup efforts for all the states in the watershed.

Despite continued efforts from the agricultural sector, many, including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, fear that without the full commitment of all of the states within the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the cleanup will not be successful within the established timeframe.

A related and hotly debated topic, the Conowingo Dam settlement, will also be discussed on Nov. 9, and will feature experts representing the Clean Chesapeake Coalition and the Maryland Department of the Environment.

The final sessions on Nov. 16 will include experts from the American Farm Bureau Federation and others to discuss the Clean Water Act waters of the United States rule. This session will help growers understand the current legal definition of the WOTUS rule and how this legal concept applies to agricultural operations.

The conference will conclude with a roundup of this year’s hot topics in agricultural and environmental law and developing issues to watch out for in 2021. Hosted by ALEI’s Paul Goeringer, this session never fails to provide a thorough overview of the most interesting legal developments.

Although the conference will be hosted in a different format, the event will continue to serve the important role of allowing farmers to present, learn and ask tough questions about the environmental and agricultural laws that impact their operations. Time will be allotted following each session to allow attendees the opportunity to have open dialogue and ask questions to the panelists, so register today and come prepared to join the conversation.

For more information or to register, visit

Sarah Everhart is a legal specialist and managing director of the Agriculture Law Education Initiative, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.