Written by: Mallory Newman- 3L at Florida State University
Hello FLSN members! I am Mallory Neumann a 3L at Florida State University College of Law and a Careers Co-Chair for FLSN. As Careers Co-Chairs, Zoe Grant and I plan to share internship and career opportunities in food law with FLSN members. Today, I would like to share an exciting experience that I am currently participating in.
I am a member of Class XIII of the Florida Gubernatorial Fellows Program. The program was created by a past governor to provide students with the ability to learn from top officials in state government. Fellows participate in a weekly lecture series with state leadership, policy trips around the state, and work part-time at a state agency. Fellows are placed at an agency and work on a project that aligns with their interests. As a law student interested in food and agricultural issues, I was placed at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Office of General Counsel. Fellows also engage in an independent comprehensive research project to identify and propose solutions to an issue facing Florida.
At the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, I am working on implementing the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) at the state level. FSMA was signed into law by President Obama in 2011 in response to major foodborne illness outbreaks and bioterrorism concerns. The law attempts to shift the focus to prevention of contamination before it reaches the consumer instead of reaction to outbreaks. The FDA has promulgated major rules to implement FSMA including the Produce Safety Rule, Preventive Controls for Human Food, and Preventive Controls for Food for Animals.
My fellowship centers primarily on assisting the Department in implementing the Produce Safety Rule since Florida is a significant producer of fruits and vegetables. Florida ranks first in the United States for production value of oranges, fresh tomatoes, watermelons, grapefruit, sugarcane, fresh snap beans, and fresh cucumbers and ranks second for bell peppers, strawberries, fresh sweet corn, spring potatoes, peanuts, tangerines, and avocados. Many of these produce growers are subject to the science-based minimum standards required by the Produce Safety Rule and look to the Department to assist them in complying. Through the fellowship, I assist the Department’s Office of General Counsel and Division of Fruit and Vegetables in identifying the legal and policy implications of the Department’s decisions in choosing how to implement the rule.
I believe that the Gubernatorial Fellows Program is a unique opportunity because I have the ability to gain both legal and public policy experience. The Program is open to undergraduate and graduate students in any discipline, which provides a broader experience than other legal internships. The independent research project is also a unique opportunity because Fellows have access to government data and experts to determine the most appropriate solution to the identified issue.
I highly encourage students interested in public policy to seek out similar opportunities in their state. If your state does not have a similar program, seek out opportunities through your state legislature by contacting a representative or committee that deals with food and agricultural issues. Not only will you be able to gain legal experience, but you will have the opportunity to understand the policy implications behind government regulations. These internships are also beneficial because you will feel gratified in giving back to your community and will feel the effects firsthand from the policies you help to implement.