State of Montana and The University of Montana Law School
Education and work experience:
I have been a state attorney for over twenty years (seven as the head of the Montana Consumer Protection Office, about fourteen years more as the Chief Attorney of the Montana Department of Agriculture). I have been an adjunct law professor for over fifteen years, teaching primarily consumer transactions (unfair and deceptive trade practices) & Agriculture and Food Law.
AALA leadership roles:
Mostly I just ask a lot of questions (but have served on some of the planning committees in the past)
How did you get interested/involved in agricultural law?
Working cases on dietary supplements and food fraud kind of made the transition to agriculture law happen when the previous chief attorney for agriculture retired.
What is your current role and what type of work are you doing?
Like most state agriculture departments, Montana tries to help farmers and ag businesses be able to operate smoothly across the county and the world. Sometimes it’s a phone call, occasionally it’s a stern letter, and when needed it’s rewriting rules, but it is rarely litigation.
What are some challenges and opportunities you see in your job and the ag law profession?
Agriculture has traditionally enjoyed broad exemptions from many state and federal laws (from child labor to trucking regulations) while complaining about the power of a handful of large companies that “control” segments of the industry. Looking down the road, the exemptions will probably shrink or go away at that same time new players attempt to disrupt existing power structures and near-monopolies. Great time to be an agriculture attorney.
How does AALA help or benefit your profession or current role?
With lectures that are often months if not years ahead of a trend, it can provide you some insight and knowledge about the parts of the industry that you are not yet seeing but soon may have to deal with on a regular basis. In addition, the other professionals you meet there give you the rare chance to bounce ideas and legal theories on various agricultural topics and get meaningful and varied feedback as you will often have federal regulatory, bank in-house, insurance, academics, and litigators at your table.
What is one of your favorite AALA memories or experiences?
At the Austin conference, a bunch of us (under Jeff Peterson’s careful guidance) piling into a van to road trip out of town for a great BBQ joint.