SOUTH ROYALTON, VT –– Vermont Law School has received a $1.25 million grant to support its new Center for Agriculture and Food Systems, which advocates for community-based agriculture across the United States.

The anonymous grant, which will be distributed over four years, will allow the center to hire a director with national experience and to expand its agricultural law and policy curriculum and training, research and support programs.

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

The agriculture center builds on Vermont’s reputation for small-scale agricultural innovation and ethos of environmental and social sustainability. It will provide support for community-based
agricultural systems, sustainable agriculture advocates, agencies, food hubs, incubators and farmers.

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

VLS is launching a national search for a director to work with VLS’s environmental faculty, Food and Agricultural Law Society students, alumni who work in organizations such as the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the Center for Food Safety, and the Vermont Department of Agriculture, and a network of national and international advisors.

The VLS agriculture center is:

Expanding the law school’s curriculum to create a comprehensive academic program in agriculture and food policy.

Continuing research and education projects, such as The Farmer’s Handbook for Energy Self-Reliance. The handbook is distributed to more than 4,000 farmers and taken to more than a dozen farmers’ forums and conferences nationally.

Organizing conferences for agricultural leaders such as the 2010 Food, Fuel, and the Future of Farming, which brought together more than 200 scholars, activists, policy leaders and farmers.

The center focuses on legal and policy issues related to
community-based agriculture, including the regulation of food, the Farm Bill and agricultural subsidies, energy-efficient food
production, energy independence for farmers and other issues that are key to retaining a successful working landscape for rural communities.

Current projects range from agriculture policy to individual faculty and student research in a variety of areas. Recent projects include a study of the regulatory barriers to grain production in Vermont, the Open Space Vermont blog, and a survey of property tax incentives for U.S. agricultural lands.

The center also is supporting the research of key scholars in sustainable agriculture and food issues by hosting a Sustainable Food Systems Summer Scholar during VLS’s summer session. Last year’s inaugural Summer Scholar 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. This year’s Summer Scholar will be Stephanie Tai, a professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School and an expert on the role of environmental and health sciences in developing regulatory safeguards.

More information about the VLS agriculture center is available at