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Archive for Tuesday, February 19, 2002

Senator proposes ag clinic

KU law school would provide legal advice to farmers

February 19, 2002

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— A state senator said Monday he wanted Kansas University's School of Law to start helping farmers navigate the complex legal world of agriculture.

A resolution by Sen. Derek Schmidt, R-Independence, would urge KU officials to establish an agriculture law teaching professorship and agriculture law clinic.

Schmidt, who is chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, will conduct a hearing on the resolution Wednesday.

He said farmers need more legal help as agriculture becomes more complicated.

"There are the traditional legal issues of water rights and land use," said Schmidt, who is an attorney. "But now there are new issues, such as genetic modifications, intellectual property and new methods of marketing."

Schmidt said he thinks that if the agriculture law clinic is established, it would provide free or low-cost legal assistance to farmers.

KU Law School Dean Stephen McAllister is scheduled to testify in favor of the measure, though he said the school would need more money to accomplish the task.

"It makes sense for our students," McAllister said.

McAllister said many students come from agricultural backgrounds and many will practice in areas that require knowledge of agricultural legal issues.

But McAllister said setting up a faculty member, supervising attorney and administrative staff would require about $200,000.

With the Legislature facing a more than $500 million shortfall, McAllister said he doesn't believe the necessary funds will be forthcoming.

"Money will be an issue," Schmidt said, "but it's important to plan now and then move forward."

The measure is Senate Concurrent Resolution 1622.

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