Reaping a legal harvest Attorney helped to create State Bar?s AgLaw Section

 By Sheila Pursglove 

Legal News
When it comes to counseling clients on agricultural matters, attorney Liza Moore understands the issues firsthand, having grown up on a farm that produced corn, soybeans, and wheat, along with a farrow-to-finish swine operation. 
“I’ve been involved in farming all my life, and always will be,” says Moore, whose brother and sister-in-law moved back to Indiana from Colorado to help carry on the farm to the next generation.
Moore spearheads the Agricultural Law Team at Foster, Swift, Collins & Smith in Lansing; and as a member of the General Litigation Practice Group, focuses primarily on agricultural law and environmental law, as well as insurance defense, commercial litigation, and appellate matters. 
A diverse, growing industry, Michigan agriculture contributes $96 billion annually to the state’s economy and accounts for about 22 percent of the state’s employment, Moore notes. The state is second only to California in diversity of agricultural commodities, producing dairy, dry beans, blueberries, tart cherries, begonias, potatoes, eggs, soybeans, and sugar beets, to name a few.
Legal issues important to agribusiness include good succession planning, risk management strategies — including proper insurance coverage, employee handbooks, waivers and releases, and good contracts — and compliance with laws and regulations governing immigration, labor, transportation, food safety, fertilizers, and the environment, notes Moore, named in the ranks of Michigan Super Lawyers, Rising Star, Michigan Lawyers Weekly “Up and Coming Lawyers,” and “Top 5 Under 35” by the Ingham County Bar Association.
Current industry hot topics include new EPA proposed rules regarding the “waters of the United States,” complying with the Food Safety Modernization Act, and combatting the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus that affects piglets.
In 2012, Moore worked with other attorneys to create the Agricultural Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan. 
“We felt that an industry as vibrant and diverse as agriculture should have a State Bar section to help attorneys practicing in this area meet and share knowledge and ideas, with the goal of better serving this important community,” she says.  
The State Bar of Michigan Board of Commissioners approved the formation of the Section in July 2012. By January 2013, the Section was over 120 members strong, and 49 attorneys from across Michigan participated in the organizational meeting in Lansing, where members voted to adopt the Bylaws and elect officers and council.  
Elected as chairperson, one of Moore’s primary tasks was to organize the first annual meeting and program, held on September 19, 2013. 
“Over 50 attorneys attended – a great turnout for a first meeting,” she says.  
The program featured a video greeting from U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry; and a “State of Agriculture” presentation by James E. Byrum, president of the Michigan Agri-Business Association.  
A panel discussion, “Government’s Role and Responsibilities,” featured Jim Johnson, Director, Environmental Stewardship Division, Michigan Dept. of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD); Brad Deacon, Emergency Management/Administrative Law Coordinator, Executive Office, MDARD; Jeff Haarer, Producer Security and Ag Products Manager, Pesticide and Plant Pest Management Division, MDARD; and Christine White, State Executive Director, U.S. Dept.of Agriculture, Michigan Farm Service Agency.  
A second panel discussion, “What an Expert Can Do for You and Your Clients.” featured Barb Dartt, Partner, GROW: The Family Business Advisors; E. Lynn Pohl, Partner, Boge, Wybenga & Bradley, P.C.; Dennis Stein, Saginaw Valley District Farm Management Educator, MSU Extension; and William Knudson, Product Marketing Economist, MSU Product Center for Agriculture and Natural Resources.
The Section currently has more than 200 members, notes Moore, who now serves as secretary.  The Food Law Committee recently held a lunch program featuring speaker Byron Beerbower, Compliance Manager, Food and Dairy Division, MDARD, who discussed “Outbreaks in the Food Industry:  What Really Happens During an Investigation.”  The luncheon was well attended by attorneys from across Michigan, and law students; more lunch and social programs are in the works.
The Section’s second annual meeting and program, 8:30 a.m. to noon, Thursday, Sept. 18, at DeVos Place, Grand Rapids, will address the 2014 Farm Bill and Farm-to-Table Issues, and include presentations by representatives of Michigan agriculture and food industry groups, and attorneys from the public and private sector. For more information, visit
Moore serves on the Board of Directors of the Ingham County Fair Foundation, a new organization aimed at raising money for the Ingham County Fairgrounds and its programs.  
“I was a 10-year 4-H member and worked for my local extension office as a 4-H program assistant for four summers during college – helping the local fair in the Lansing area seemed like a natural thing to do,” she says.
Heavily involved in the national youth organization FFA – formerly Future Farmers of America – since her high school days, Moore also serves on the Board of Directors of the Michigan FFA Foundation that helps raise money for activities. Foster Swift is a supporter of the Foundation. 
“I truly enjoy working at a firm that shares my enthusiasm for helping young people in agribusiness develop their potential,” she says. “FFA gives students interested in agriculture amazing opportunities to develop leadership skills, obtain hands-on career experience, and travel the state and nation competing with and making friends with other people in the agribusiness community.”
During her own teen FFA activities, Moore judged livestock and meats, and competed in speaking contests at the state and national level. Her first-ever plane ride was to compete at the National Western in Denver. After high school, she was elected the Indiana FFA State Northern Region Vice President, and deferred her college enrollment for a year to spend the time living and working with the state FFA staff and other elected officers to promote Indiana agriculture. 
“I drove around 30,000 miles and crisscrossed the state to solicit funding, give speeches, and organize contests and events,” she says.
She went on to earn her bachelor’s degree with honors from the University of Chicago, with special honors in environmental studies – a major she chose because conservation issues are highly (and increasingly) regulated by the government. 
“I wanted to study the complicated laws governing the natural resources we used and protected every day on the farm,” she says. “We worked to properly fertilize our soil, avoid soil erosion, care for the water on our land, and ensure the land would be as productive for the next generation as it was for the present.”
She obtained her J.D. cum laude from Indiana University School of Law in Bloomington, where she was a Managing Editor of the Indiana Law Journal. 
“To me, the law is all about helping others find solutions to problems,” she says. “I’ve always enjoyed solving problems, reading and writing, and public speaking. The law offered me a chance to do all of those things while helping others.”
A resident of East Lansing, Moore hopes to move to a few acres outside of the city limits in the coming year, and enjoys spending time outdoors. 
“Michigan has great public parks and forests, and I try to head out to the trails as often as possible,” she says.

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