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Meet the 2022 CAFS Summer Honors Interns

This summer, six students from law schools around the country joined Vermont Law and Graduate School's Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) for the Summer Honors Internship program, which ran from May 31 to August 5. Offered annually, CAFS's competitive paid internship program draws law students from across the country to work alongside the team and their partner organizations on law and policy projects. In addition to various legal projects, interns joined the VLGS community, attending regular educational lectures, networking events with food system practitioners in various fields, and social opportunities. Below, learn more about the Honors Interns and what they worked on. 

Clockwise, from top left: 

Elena Chang is a rising 2L at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa. Elena worked this summer with Professor of Law and Faculty Fellow Emily Spiegel and partner organization New England Feeding New England, as well as a newly formed food policy council in New Hampshire, to develop a food resilience assessment tool and gather feedback from potential users. This included meeting with partners, legal and policy research into real-life examples, and interpreting policy for a general audience.  

Emily Lovell is a rising 2L at the University of California Irvine School of Law. Prior to law school, Emily graduated with a degree in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems from UC Davis in 2016 and applied her skills to several on-farm jobs throughout California. Working with Staff Attorney and Adjunct Faculty Francine Miller, Emily spent the summer supporting the work of Agrarian Trust’s Agrarian Commons, 501(c)(2) land trusts that hold and manage land and issue equitable long-term leases to farmers. Emily researched and wrote a memo on how the Agrarian Commons can construct governance structures that are compliant with IRS rules governing the relationship between 501(c)(3) central organizations and 501(c)(2) title-holding subordinate organizations as well as other legal issues for farmers seeking alternative forms of land ownership. 

Olivia Guarna is a rising 2L at New York University School of Law and is interested in the intersection of environmental law and Indigenous legal issues, especially as it pertains to healthy food systems. Olivia earned her B.A. in Engineering Studies and Studio Art at Lafayette College, and still loves to draw and paint in her free time. Olivia split her internship working on two projects, one with Assistant Professor of Law Benjamin Varadi researching jurisprudence and existing scholarship relating to preemption doctrine, specifically in the realm of cannabis, cottage foods, and GMO regulation, to be used in a law review article identifying trends. Olivia also worked with CAFS Director and Professor of Law Laurie Beyranevand and Associate Director and Research Fellow Lihlani Nelson, as well as partners at Farmworker Justice to conduct research on the complex legal and regulatory landscape of pesticide law enforcement. Olivia is finalizing a short report on the regulatory structure of pesticide law enforcement and its pitfalls which explores the ways to improve pesticide enforcement at the federal level, which will be published by the end of the summer.  

A current Master of Food and Agriculture Law and Policy student at Vermont Law and Graduate School and a passionate farmer advocate, Molly Carey’s background includes several seasons of farming, managing farmers markets, providing support to a large network of farmers and producers in the mid-Atlantic region, and advocating for federal food and farm policy reform. Molly also currently provides direct support and resources to farmers across the country through a national farmer hotline. Molly is interested in direct farmer advocacy (including legal support) and farm policy and programmatic reform that can help farmers thrive, particularly BIPOC and beginning farmers. This summer, Molly focused on USDA National Appeals Division (NAD) research and analysis with Sophia Kruszewski, former Director of the CAFS Food and Agriculture Clinic. This project is exploring concerns raised by farm advocates about the challenges farmers have navigating the appeals process, particularly in terms of racial bias and USDA Farm Service loan decisions. Along with partners Farm Aid and the Rural Advancement Foundation International, Molly drafted Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, analyzed NAD determinations, and assisted in writing a report identifying opportunities for improvement in the NAD process in the next Farm Bill.  

Shaune Hickson is in her second year of law school at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University where she is pursuing an advanced certificate in Environmental Law. Shaune worked with both Legal Fellow Cydnee Bence and former Food and Agriculture Clinic Director Sophia Kruszewski during her internship. With Professor Kruszewski, Shaune focused on the conflict between federal and state meat inspection exemptions, a focus requested by our local partners at Rural Vermont. On a second project, Shaune worked with LLM Fellow Cydnee Bence to develop policy recommendations to support dairy farmers looking to transition out of dairy production and into new non-animal-based products. Shaune conducted factual and policy research; then, she synthesized her research into a memo that will be used by project partner Animal Law and Policy Institute in the coming months to direct their ultimate policy recommendations. 

Veronica Gassert is a graduate of VLGS’s MFALP program and current Accelerated J.D. student, and worked alongside LLM Fellow Cydnee Bence and partner Socially Responsible Agriculture Project to develop a policy brief analyzing state laws that limit local control over Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). The brief is to be shared with legislators, community advocacy groups, and more in order to provide strategies for protecting local communities and nonindustrial agriculture. Veronica also contributed to the Labels Unwrapped project, developing resources on food labeling for consumers, as well as researching governmental interpretations of food label claims and continuing the update the Labels Unwrapped outreach materials. 

Thank you to all the interns for an amazing summer! 

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