Not so long ago, agricultural law didn’t get a lot of attention — there were other areas of law, such as business, family, or criminal law, that were much more established. It’s an area of practice that has changed so much in the last 50 years, and someone who’s been at the forefront of it all is Don Buckingham, an inductee to this year’s crop of Canadian Agriculture Hall of Fame.
Buckingham grew up on a farm in northwestern Saskatchewan thinking he’d be a farmer and a lawyer, with a practice in a small town.
“That didn’t quite work out, I actually did quite a few other things,” jokes Buckingham. After leaving the farm, he attended law school, and he realized nobody was really practicing in the area of agricultural law, which he found unusual as agriculture is the mainstay of Canada’s economy.
The technical questions were what drew Buckingham to agricultural law, questions like: how do you buy farmland; how do you hire farm workers; how do you deal with death or divorce in a farm family? Buckingham figured he could make a career out of answering these questions, and taught them in Saskatchewan and Ontario law schools for the first 15 years of his career.
For his next trick, Buckingham threw his hat into agriculture law and policy, first with Ag Canada in their legal department, advising ministers on legal questions. His next stops were equally as interesting as the first ones: one as an administrative judge, dealing with law disputes between farmers and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and then finally, in the last three years, involved with the Canadian Agriculture Policy Institute (CAPI) as their CEO, looking at new ways for agriculture policy to remain current and relevant.
Buckingham says he’s covered the whole field, pun intended, of agricultural law in Canada.
Hear the full conversation between Buckingham and RealAg Radio host Shaun Haney below: