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:
Avian Influenza: New HPAI Indemnity Rules become Effective
On February 9, 2016, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) published in the Federal Register an interim rule amending the regulations governing the payment of indemnity claims for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) (81 FR 6745). The new regulations became effective upon the interim rule’s February 9, 2016 publication in the Federal Register and amend the previous HPAI indemnity regulations to: 1) allow indemnity payments to be split between poultry/egg owners and contractors; 2) clarify that eggs are eligible for indemnity payments; and 3) require that owners and contractors of large facilities provide statements that prior to the detection of HPAI in their facility, they had in place, and were following, a biosecurity plan. For more information see previous Penn State Agricultural Law Blog post.
Labeling: House Votes to Make Menu Labeling Less Stringent
On February 12, 2016, the United States House of Representatives voted 266 – 144 to pass the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2015 (H.R. 2017), which would make less stringent the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) menu labeling requirements for nutrition information displayed by certain food establishments (such as restaurants, pizza shops, supermarkets, and convenience stores). Significantly, on February 10, 2016, the Obama administration issued a press release opposing H.R. 2017, stating that if enacted, the legislation “would reduce consumers' access to nutrition information…likely create consumer confusion…[and] create unnecessary delays in the implementation of menu labeling.”
Avian Influenza: Indiana Animal Health Officials Set Date to Remove HPAI Restrictions
On February 4, 2016, the Indiana State Board of Animal Health issued a press release announcing the lifting of certain restrictions that had been in place since a January outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) within the state. According to the press release, provided that no new HPAI tests are reported, the state “expects to release the 10-km control area and the additional 10-km surveillance zone on Monday, Feb. 22.” The quarantines on infected sites, however, will continue “until final site-cleanup requirements are met.”
Animal Welfare: Judge Blocks Horse Slaughter and Sale of Horsemeat in New Mexico
On February 4, 2016, New Mexico District Judge Francis J. Mathew issued a Stipulated Final Order permanently enjoining Defendants Valley Meat Company, LLC, Dairyland Packing, Inc., Mountain View Packing, LLC, and Richard De Los Santos, non-parties Jose Hernandez, Ryoichi Okubo, and D’Allende Meats, LLC, “from slaughter horses for human consumption, and from manufacturing, selling or distributing horsemeat products for human consumption in New Mexico.” The case was brought against the Defendants by New Mexico Attorney General Hector H. Balderas.
Crop Insurance: Kentucky Farmer Sentenced for Crop Insurance Fraud
On February 2, 2016, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Kentucky issued a press release announcing that Kentucky farmer Tracy E. Dillard “was sentenced by United States District Judge Greg N. Stivers, to serve eight months in prison followed by a three year term of supervised release and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $711,958.00 for committing crop insurance fraud.” According to the press release, Dillard had previously admitted in court to “knowingly making false statements and reports on insurance claims submitted to Producers Agriculture Insurance Company, a company insured by the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC).”
GMOs: Kenya Approves Limited Release of GM Maize Seeds
On February 9, 2016, Kenya’s National Biosafety Authority “granted a conditional approval only for environmental release for the purpose of conducting National Performance Trials (NPTs) and collecting compositional analysis data but not for cultivation, importation or placing on the market of the Bt Maize.” Bt Maize (MON810) is a Monsanto produced, genetically modified, insect-protected corn hybrid.
Food Safety: Slaughterhouse Owner Sentenced for Selling Condemned and Uninspected Cattle
On February 11, 2016, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California issued a press release announcing that “Jesse ‘Babe’ Amaral, Jr., owner of the now-defunct Petaluma slaughterhouse Rancho Feeding Corporation, was sentenced today to 12 months and one day of imprisonment for leading a conspiracy to distribute adulterated, misbranded, and uninspected meat.” In addition to the aforementioned prison time, United States District Judge Charles R Breyer also sentenced Amaral “to two years’ supervised release, one of which will be served in a residential re-entry facility.”