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The Counter featured Haub professor of environmental and food law, Margot Pollans in "7 ways the Trump administration has deregulated the food system during the Covid-19 pandemic"

07/24/2020

The Counter featured Haub professor of environmental and food law, Margot Pollans in "7 ways the Trump administration has deregulated the food system during the Covid-19 pandemic"

“What’s happened in the pandemic has just been more of the same, says Margot Pollans, a professor of environmental and food law at Pace University. “In fact, a lot of things were kind of on the agenda anyway, and the pandemic just provides another rationale. The question is: Is the rationale at all persuasive? Is it compelling? Mostly, I think the answer is no.”

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LA Times featured Haub Law Professor Margot Pollans piece in "Op-Ed: Everything wrong with our food system has been made worse by the pandemic"

05/04/2020

LA Times featured Haub Law Professor Margot Pollans piece in "Op-Ed: Everything wrong with our food system has been made worse by the pandemic"

Last Tuesday, President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to direct the Secretary of Agriculture to “take all appropriate action . . . to ensure that meat and poultry processors continue operations.”

Although technically the executive order neither forces plants to open nor compels workers to show up, it reveals the president’s utter disregard for plant workers who could face a high risk of contracting COVID-19 from workplaces contaminated with the coronavirus. According to the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, more than 5,000 workers at meat processing plants have already been sickened, at least 20 have died, and more than 20 plants have had to close in recent weeks.

It is a cruel irony that Trump for so long refused to use the Defense Production Act to order production of lifesaving medical equipment, and now does it so readily to protect the multibillion-dollar meatpacking industry.

This executive order should come as no surprise. It is entirely consistent with the president’s many policies that harm immigrants and minorities. Most of these workers are people of color, and, according to the Government Accountability Office, about 28% are foreign-born. Many were recruited from abroad to take these jobs, which are low paying and dangerous even in the best of times.

Perhaps less obviously, the executive order is consistent with a troubling pattern in federal food law: the systemic disregard for the health and safety of workers. Federal food law prioritizes the interests of food consumers over those of food system workers. When food sickens consumers, the law on the books provides for aggressive action.

By contrast, when food workers are at risk, the federal government has a bad track record. From underenforced pesticide safety laws to inadequate protections from debt slavery and other forms of exploitation, the interests of food system workers come last. Before the pandemic, the Trump administration further weakened pesticide protection and relaxed laws governing line speed in meat processing plants. Faster production lines increase the risk of workplace injury. The federal government’s lax approach to protecting food system workers from COVID-19 continues this trend.

Read the full LA Times article.

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"Civil Eats" featured Haub Law Professor Margot Pollans and the Pace Food and Beverage Law Clinic in "Farmers Can’t Afford the Legal Help They Need. These Lawyers Are Mobilizing to Change That."

05/17/2018

"Civil Eats" featured Haub Law Professor Margot Pollans and the Pace Food and Beverage Law Clinic in "Farmers Can’t Afford the Legal Help They Need. These Lawyers Are Mobilizing to Change That."

Corbin Hill Food Project founder Dennis Derryck believes that food justice depends on land justice, which is why he’s taking 95 acres of upstate New York farmland his organization owns and “turning it over to the community.” In the process, he’s tackling big, philosophical questions: “Who is the community? What should the land be used for? Shouldn’t the community itself answer that question?”

To make the project work, however, he also needed to ask some more mundane, practical questions, like: “What kind of legal structures exist for collective ownership?” Normally, Derryck says he would have pieced together ad-hoc legal advice, since Corbin Hill could not afford an attorney. But this time, he turned to a team of law students at the Pace Food and Beverage Law Clinic.

“They spent considerable time with us really helping us understand things like rules and regulations,” recalls Derryck. “They said, ‘We love what you want to do, but you’ve got to hear about all the things you’ll have to deal with,’”—like land easements and non-profit governance structures.

The clinic is the central piece of the Pace-NRDC Food Law Initiative, a program launched in 2015 in partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in New York City, to provide small farmers, food producers, and food activists with pro bono legal services. It’s also educating a new generation of food lawyers on the day-to-day legal issues that producers outside the industrial food system face.

“Legal services are a key part of the infrastructure for a sustainable regional food economy,” says Margot Pollans, the initiative’s faculty director.

While the clinic is the first law school initiative of its kind, it’s part of larger movement to make attorneys and legal information accessible to small farmers and food producers, who often end up trying to navigate complex issues—including labor policies, food safety regulations, contracts, and land transfers—on their own.

In addition to the Pace-NRDC initiative, The Legal Food Hub launched in Massachusetts in 2014 and now connects producers with pro bono lawyers throughout New England. And organizations like the Sustainable Economies Law Center and Farm Commons, along with other university law clinics, produce free legal guides and toolkits that address common challenges like establishing farm business structures and earning organic certification.

With her law students, Pollans says she emphasizes how critical legal help can be for good food businesses to survive. “The clinic is embedded in developing a regional food system … by thinking about systemic barriers,” she says. “Lack of legal services is one of those barriers.”

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"Fox News" featured Haub Law Professor Margot Pollans in "What is the farm bill? From food stamps to conservation efforts, a look at the massive legislation"

05/15/2018

"Fox News" featured Haub Law Professor Margot Pollans in "What is the farm bill? From food stamps to conservation efforts, a look at the massive legislation"

...What is the farm bill?

A complicated omnibus package, the farm bill, at its core, regulates agriculture production in the U.S. In particular, it tackles how produce is grown, what it costs and how American agriculture exists in the international food arena, Dr. Marion Nestle, a well-known New York University food nutritionist, told Fox News.

The goals of the farm bill have changed over time, from having more of a focus on a safety net for farmers to including protection from hunger, said Margot Pollans, a Pace University law professor and member of the Farm Bill Enterprise.

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