Written by: M. Sean High—Staff Attorney
The following information is an update of recent local, state, national, and international legal developments relevant to agriculture:
Food Safety: FDA Commissioner Addresses On-Farm Readiness Review Program
On October 4, 2018, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine Stephen Ostroff published an opinion in Food Safety News addressing FDA’s new On-Farm Readiness Review (OFRR) program. According to the commissioners, the primary purpose of the Food Safety Modernization Act’s (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule is to implement measures that prevent produce contamination. As a result, Gottlieb and Ostroff announced the availability of OFRR which is designed to encourage communication between farmers and regulators regarding Produce Safety Rule requirements. Created in collaboration with the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, OFRR allows for on farm reviews to help in preparation of future FSMA mandated inspections.
Organic Agriculture: Court to Hear Challenge to Withdraw of Organic Livestock Rule
On October 5, 2018, Feedstuffs reported that the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia will hear a challenge brought against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regarding the agency’s failure to implement new organic livestock standards. On March 13, 2018, USDA withdrew the Organic Livestock & Poultry Practices (OLPP) final rule which was scheduled to go into effect on May 14, 2018. The new requirements would have covered livestock handling and transport for slaughter, avian living conditions, livestock care and production practices, and mammalian living conditions. Brought by the Organic Trade Association, the suit alleges that USDA improperly delayed implementation of OLPP and violated the Organic Foods Production Act by not consulting with the National Organic Standards Board.
Food Safety: FDA Prohibits Use of Six Synthetic Food Additives
On October 5, 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that the agency will no longer allow the use of six synthetic food additives after lab tests showed the additives caused cancer in lab animals. According to FDA, the six food additives are synthetically-derived benzophenone, ethyl acrylate, eugenyl methyl ether (methyl eugenol), myrcene, pulegone, and pyridine. FDA stated that the food additives do not currently pose a risk to the public health because food manufacturers only use the additives in small doses. Nevertheless, because the lab tests revealed cancer at high doses, use of the additives will no longer be permitted.
Food Labeling: Class Action against Chipotle’s “Non-GMO” Claims May Continue
On September 29, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California certified a class action suit brought against Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. (Martin Schneider, et al., v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc, Case No. 16-cv-02200-HSG). The plaintiffs bringing the action alleged that Chipotle violated California, Maryland, and New York consumer protection laws by claiming that the restaurant's products were "non-GMO" and "GMO-free." The plaintiffs stated that Chipotle’s advertising and labeling claims were misleading because the beef, chicken, pork, poultry, and dairy products served in the restaurant were from animals that had been fed genetically modified feed. As a result of the court’s decision, the class action may move forward with those individuals in California, Maryland, and New York who purchased Chipotle's food products containing meat and/or dairy ingredients during the designated Class Period.
From National Ag Law Experts:
Syngenta corn seed settlement claims due October 12, Peggy Kirk Hall, Ohio Agricultural Law Blog – Agricultural Law & Taxation – Ohio State University Extension (October 5, 2018)
Disqualified from SNAP? SAM I Am!, Stewart D. Fried, Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz PC (October 10, 2018)
Taxpayers Forced to Repay Advance Premium Tax Credit, Despite Sympathetic Circumstances, Kristine A. Tidgren, The Ag Docket – Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation (October 5, 2018)
Act 77 (HB 1917): Legislation regarding the training and oversight of humane society police officers (Signed into law by the Governor, October 2, 2018)
HB 2648: Legislation regulating consumer fireworks (Referred to House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, October 1, 2018)
Pennsylvania Actions and Notices:
Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
Va., Pa. farmers markets among top 10 in nation – Morning Ag Clips
Steady Farmland Values Help Insulate a Struggling Agricultural Sector – Illinois Farm Policy News
What Farm Bill? Hemp industry shrugs off law’s expiration – Hemp Industry Daily
Six Technologies That Could Shake the Food World – The Wall Street Journal
Strong U.S. economy not helping struggling farmers – Feedstuffs
California startup turns to robots for farm labor – Press Herald
China’s Small Farms Are Fading. The World May Benefit – The New York Times
G.T. Thompson Recognized for Supporting Pennsylvania Agriculture – Lancaster Farming
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