The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), a non-profit environmental advocacy group based in New England, is piloting a new resource project for farmers: the New England Legal Services Food Hub.
The problem that CLF hopes to solve with the Legal Services Food Hub is an important and widespread issue; many farmers and food entrepreneurs are forced to sacrifice economic viability or even their businesses due to the costly fees associated with legal aid. In order to combat these fees, CLF is creating the Legal Services Food Hub, which will support farmers and food entrepreneurs via a network of attorneys willing to provide pro bono legal assistance.
The Legal Services Food Hub also aims to include agricultural organizations or community groups interested in social justice or member supported food cooperatives. Furthermore, CLF is working with the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic to create a guide to agricultural issues for attorneys who participate in the network. Ideally, these resources will not only provide necessary pro bono assistance to farmers and agricultural businesses, but also will fortify the growing local food movement in New England.
How does it work?
After CLF evaluates each case for eligibility, the client will be matched with the best-fit attorney via the Legal Services Food Hub network. CLF will initially concentrate on transactional legal issues, including land acquisition, taxes, and contract cases, and those chosen will, in part, be based on an annual net income cap of $25,000, in order to verify that CLF is providing aid to people in the most need.
While an attorney from the Legal Services Food Hub is attached to the case, CLF will oversee regular check-ins with both the attorney and the client in order to confirm that the representation is mutually constructive. Initially, CLF will oversee the Legal Services Food Hub for one year beginning in June 2014. Although at first it will be based in Massachusetts, CLF aims to expand the program throughout New England, pending the success of the initial outreach.
CLF founded the Legal Services Food Hub based on the idea that a given area’s climate, environment, and economy are inherently dependent on the local food system. By protecting ocean fisheries, cleaning up waterways, or expanding access to public transportation, CLF is tackling environmental problems using three main resources: science, market incentives, and the law. The Legal Services Food Hub is an extension of this approach to environmental advocacy, as it aims to solve legal problems related to the food system.
To check out more of CLF’s agricultural work, see its Farm and Food Initiative webpage. For more information about CLF’s environmental focus in New England, check out its list of projects. Finally, if you’re interested in getting assistance from the Legal Services Found Hub or if you’re an attorney interested in participating in the network, please contact Elena Mihaly at firstname.lastname@example.org. A dedicated website and phone line for the Legal Services Food Hub are in development as well, so check back to CLF’s website for updates.
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