Work: Extension Agricultural Law Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Amarillo, TX
Education and Experience: B.S. Agribusiness Farm and Ranch Management, Oklahoma State University, Juris Doctor, University New Mexico
I work for Texas A&M Agrilife Extension as an ag law specialist. I realize this is a role that does not exist in a lot of other states. I go out across the state and do a lot of meetings, speaking, and writing. My goal is to keep ag producers informed about legal issues, answer their questions, help them be aware of their rights, and be kind of a legal resource for Texas producers. I focus a lot on landowner issues with leases, water, oil and gas laws, pipelines, and liability issues. That’s most of what I work on.
How did you find a career in agriculture law?
I grew up on my family’s farm and ranch in northeastern New Mexico, and have been involved in ag since I could walk. I have just always had that interest. I got an undergrad degree focused in agriculture and my intention when I went to law school was to be involved in ag law.
This job came up and it’s been such a perfect fit for me to use my law degree and my ag background to work with my kind of people. It’s really just been a great opportunity, and I love my job.
What do you see as the big challenges and opportunities ahead?
On the Texas side of things, we’re definitely going to have issues dealing with water. That is sure not limited to Texas. It is across the west, and maybe even across the country. I mean water in terms of availability, quantity of water, how it is being used and protecting people’s rights, there are a lot of issues. With commodity prices what they are this year we’re also seeing a lot of producers facing financial pressures and situations that could lead them into legal challenges. I hope that’s not the case, but we’re gearing up for that. And, the other issue I’m seeing a lot is absentee landowners and a variety of situations that arise with that scenario. These are situations where maybe someone has inherited land and lives in the city. We’re getting a lot of requests for lease agreements, both for agricultural surface use leases, pastures or hay, and oil and gas leases. There’s a lot of opportunity and challenges there for landlords and the tenants. I think we’ll see a lot more of that, and it is definitely creating some new dynamics.
How did you find AALA and what motivates you to continue to be a member?
I got involved right out of law school when I met Jesse Richardson. (I think everyone has a story that starts with “I met Jesse Richardson and then here we are”.) I met Jesse while working on a paper in law school, and he bragged about AALA. I joined right after law school and attended my first conference in Omaha in 2010. It was just a fantastic experience.
I’ve met some great friends and great colleagues through AALA. The people are probably the number one reason I am involved. But number two is the symposium. Everyone has to get those CLEs in and it’s nice to go to a meeting where the information is on topic and practical rather than just sitting in a meeting while someone “yammers on” in order to get the checkmark for your CLE.
You joined the Board of Directors this year. What motivated you to seek that role and what do you hope you can contribute in your time there?
I am excited to have the opportunity to work with the leadership of AALA. I’ve been involved in AALA for 7 years now and have been involved in several committees. The board is a great group that has some wonderful ideas about growing things, changing things and this is a really exciting time for AALA. I want to be a part of some of that, and help make it happen.
I’ve chaired the membership committee and there are things that committee really has the ball rolling on. Some of those are member teleconferences, the member resources on the new website – these are great ideas and I want the board to continue working on ideas like that. That technology piece and member value is really what I want to help push. There are so many great people and resources that if we can figure out how to tie that together with technology, then I think an AALA membership can be even more useful.
I was not able to be at the conference this year. I had my second child about two weeks after the conference, so travel wasn’t ideal, and I decided to avoid having the baby on the side of the road in Oklahoma. I hope all the members understand, and I’ll look forward to seeing everyone in Louisville this October.