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A New Legal Resource for Small New York Farms: Pace Law School’s Food and Beverage Law Clinic

By Jonathan Brown, Director, Food and Beverage Law Clinic & Member of NOFA-NY Board of Directors

Small farms must navigate a variety of legal matters in building successful, resilient operations. Some of these are typical for any small business: formalizing business structures, negotiating contracts, and properly hiring employees, for example. But farms also operate in a complex regulatory space and face unique legal issues relating to food safety, labeling, land use, land access, and more. This list only gets longer when CSA operations, agritourism, farm-to-institution sales, value-added processing, and other new business models come into play. Unfortunately, farms are far less likely to use legal services than other small businesses. According to Farm Commons, only about 10% of surveyed small farmers used legal services, as compared to 70% of small business generally, a gap that was attributed both to lack of available services and to a perception that most lawyers do not understand the issues that farmers face.

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