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:
GMO Labeling: Federal Legislation Reaches Senate Floor for Consideration
On June 29, 2016, Senate compromise legislation entitled a National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, reached the Senate floor for consideration (S.Amdt.4936 to S.Amdt.4935). If enacted, the legislation would create a national labeling law and thereby invalidate the State of Vermont’s GMO labeling law scheduled to go into effect July 1, 2016.
Litigation: Federal Court Permits HSUS Suit against CAFO Owner to Continue
On June 17, 2016, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina Eastern Division ruled against defendant Hanover Company of Wisconsin’s (Hanover) motion to dismiss and in favor plaintiff the Humane Society of the United States (Case No. 4:15-cv-109). The case in question involves alleged violations regarding the release of ammonia from a Hanover owned concentrated feeding operation in North Carolina.
International Trade: Economists Express Concern over Brexit’s Effect on U.S. Agriculture
On June 28, 2016, Purdue University agricultural economists issued a news release regarding the effect Britain’s June 23, 2016 decision to leave the European Union might have on U.S. agriculture. While the agricultural economists stated that “Britain’s departure from the European Union would have little direct effect on U.S. agricultural trade,” they did express concern that “an already-strong U.S. dollar would continue to rise in value and [that] access to global markets might be affected.” According to the agricultural economists, “a strong dollar makes U.S. exports more expensive to the rest of the world and that a widely held belief in the agricultural industry is that trade and a weak dollar are good for U.S. agriculture.”
Litigation: Court Sets Aside USDA Organic Compost Guidelines
On June 21, 2016, the United States District Court Northern District of California ruled that the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) guidance document for using composted municipal green waste on organic farms must be set aside (Case No. 15-cv-01690). The court agreed with plaintiffs that USDA “violated the Administrative Procedures Act…by issuing a guidance document without providing public notice and comment…[and] that formal rulemaking was required because the document amended existing national organic food regulations to permit certified organic producers to use compost materials that contain synthetic pesticides.”
Animal Welfare: Perdue Announces Animal Care Commitment Policy
On June 27, 2016, Perdue Foods issued a press release announcing that the company is committing to a four part animal care plan entitled: 2016 and Beyond: Next Generation of Perdue Commitments to Animal Care. Accordingly, Perdue Foods asserts that the company will commit to: (1) the wants and needs of the animal; (2) the farmers that raise the chickens; (3) openness, transparency, and trust; and (4) a journey of continuous improvement. According to the press release, “Animal advocacy groups such as Compassion in World Farming, Mercy For Animals and The Humane Society of the United States commended Perdue for taking this major step.”
Food Safety: FSIS Creates Electronic Application and Certification Process for Meat and Poultry Inspections
On June 29, 2016, United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) published notice in the Federal Register of a final rule “amending the meat and poultry inspection regulations to provide for an electronic export application and certification system” (81 FR 42225). According to the final rule, “[t]he electronic export application and certification system will be a component of the Agency's Public Health Information System…[and] will be available as an alternative to the paper-based export application and certification process. The effective date for the new regulations is August 29, 2016.