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:
Right to Farm: Missouri Supreme Court Rules Marijuana Not Protected by State’s Right to Farm Law
On November 5, 2017, the Supreme Court of Missouri determined that Missouri’s Right to Farm law did not protect an individual’s right to grow marijuana. Under Article I, section 35 of the Missouri constitution, “the right of farmers and ranchers to engage in farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state, subject to duly authorized powers...” Accordingly, appellant Mark Shanklin argued that this provision protected his “farming practice” of raising 300 marijuana plants in his house. The court rejected Shanklin’s argument and held that “because the amendment expressly recognizes farming and ranching practices are subject to local government regulation, it would be absurd to conclude Missouri voters intended to implicitly nullify or curtail state and federal regulatory authority over the illegal drug trade.”
Industrial Hemp: Pennsylvania Expands Permitting of Industrial Hemp Research
On December 6, 2017, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced an expansion of the Commonwealth’s industrial hemp program. Currently, Pennsylvania allows researchers from institutions of higher education and individual growers contracting with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) the opportunity to apply for permits to grow industrial hemp for research purposes. In 2017, PDA issued 30 permits and limited each permit holder to the growing of no more than five acres of industrial hemp. According to Governor Wolf, for 2018, the program will be expanded to allow the issuing of as many as 50 permits. Additionally, each permit holder will have the ability to grow up to 100 acres of industrial hemp.
FSMA: FDA Issues Guidance on Term “Refusal of Inspection”
On December 11, 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced draft guidance material for foreign food facilities and foreign governments regarding how FDA interprets the term “refuses to permit entry … to inspect.” According to FDA, under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, FDA has “the authority to refuse imported food admission into the United States if the agency is not permitted to inspect the foreign establishment that produced the food.” As a result, FDA issued the draft guidance to provide examples of when an action might lead to a “refusal of inspection.”
Conservation: PA offers Tax Credits to Assist Agricultural Conservation Practices
On December 7, 2017, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) announced the availability of the 2017-2018 Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) tax credit program to assist “Pennsylvania farmers who want to implement best management practices (BMPs) or purchase on-farm conservation equipment.” Under REAP, farmers who install BMP’s or purchase equipment that will reduce nutrient and sediment runoff, have the potential to receive up to $150,000 in tax credits per agricultural operation to cover from 50% to 75% of a project’s cost. According to PDA, REAP is administered by the Pennsylvania State Conservation Commission and applications to program are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.
Environmental Resources and Energy (S)
HB 544 Legislation to amend the Recreational Use of Land and Water Act (RULWA) to expand liability protection for landowners (referred to committee December 8, 2017)
Agriculture and Rural Affairs (H)
HB 1917 Legislation to strengthen training and oversight of humane society police officers (reported out of committee December 12, 2017)
Pennsylvania Actions and Notices
Department of Agriculture
Recession Lingers in Rural America – Ag Web
Majority of Consumers Want Food Labeled If Contains DNA – Dairy Herd Management
FDA Network Takes a New Approach to Produce Safety – Food Safety Magazine
Kraft Heinz commits to 100% cage-free eggs by 2025 – Feedstuffs
GM crops take the line of least resistance in their global spread – Financial Times
Watchdog links pesticide to bee decline – Politico
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