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:
Pipelines: Judge Orders Arrest of Anyone Interfering with Cutting of Trees for Pipeline
On February 22, 2016, United States District Court Middle District of Pennsylvania Judge Malachy E. Mannion issued an order in favor of Constitution Pipeline Company’s (Constitution) clearing of trees for a natural gas pipeline (Case No.3:14-cv-02458-MEM). According to the court, previous protestors had interfered and prevented Constitution from safely cutting trees for the construction of a pipeline. In response, Judge Mannion ordered the arrest of any unauthorized individual on the property in question “that interferes with Constitution’s tree felling operation by being within 150 feet of a tree being cut down.” For more information on this topic, please see previous Penn State Agricultural Law Blog article.
Crop Insurance: Safety-Net Extended to Farmers Transitioning to Certified Organic
On February 18, 2016, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a press release announcing that the department was expanding crop insurance to allow farmers transitioning to certified organic production the ability to insure certain transitional organic crops at the contract price. USDA’s intent is to allow farmers transitioning to certified organic production the ability “to purchase insurance coverage that better reflects their products actual value.” For more information on this topic, please see previous Penn State Agricultural Law Blog article.
GMO Labeling: Senate Ag Committee Takes-Up Draft Bill for Voluntary GMO Labeling
On February 19, 2016, U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry (the Committee), issued a press release stating that “the Committee will hold a business meeting on Feb. 25 to consider the Chairman’s Mark on Biotechnology Labeling Solutions. Officially titled, “To amend the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to require the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a national voluntary labeling standard for bioengineered foods, and for other purposes,” the draft bill would pre-empt state laws regarding the labeling of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). On February 24, 2016, the Committee issued a press release stating that the business meeting to consider the draft bill had been postponed until the following week (beginning February 29, 2016).
HPAI: Indiana Lifts Poultry Control Area Restrictions
On February 22, 2016, the Indiana State Board of Health issued a press release announcing that “[t]he 6.2-mile (10 km) control area associated with the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) incident in Dubois County, Ind. was lifted today by the Indiana State Veterinarian.” According to the press release, because all farms in the control area had “consistently tested negative [for HPAI] throughout the 38-day period” established by United States Department of Agriculture guidelines, “[p]oultry owners, commercial and residential, in the area may now resume normal operations and movements of birds and poultry products.”
WOTUS: Sixth Circuit Declares Jurisdiction to Hear WOTUS Challenge
On February 22, 2016, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that it had jurisdiction to hear the multi-circuit case, In re: U.S. Dep’t of Defense & U.S. Envtl. Protection Agency Final Rule:Clean Water Rule, which consists of twenty two “consolidated petitions challenging the validity of the ‘Clean Water Rule’ recently published by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.” As a result of the decision, the case in question will proceed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. For more information on this topic, please see previous Penn State Agricultural Law Blog WOTUS articles.