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:
FSMA: FDA Seeks Public Input Regarding Use of Raw Manure and Produce Safety
On March 4, 2016, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published notice in the Federal Register that the Agency was requesting public comments, scientific data, and information regarding the use of raw manure and produce safety. According to FDA, the Agency will use the requested submissions for the development of a “risk assessment” that will be used “to determine how much consumer health is put at risk by the use of raw manure as fertilizer in growing crops covered by the Produce Safety rule, and what can be done to help prevent people from getting sick.” The submission deadline for comments, scientific data, and information regarding raw manure and produce safety is May 3, 2016.
HPAI: APHIS Releases Findings Regarding January Outbreak in Indiana
On March 4, 2016, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (AHIS) issued a report regarding the January Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) outbreak among commercial turkeys in Indiana. Entitled Epidemiologic and Other Analyses of Indiana HPAI/LPAI-Affected Poultry Flocks: March 4, 2016 Report, the report stated that while “genetic analysis determined that all H7N8 HPAI viruses detected from this event are of North American wild bird lineage…sampling and testing of wildlife near infected premises…[did not contain] evidence of existing virus.” According to the report, the outbreak may have been due to unusually warm and wet weather conditions and the failure of the turkey producers to eliminate high risk activities previously associated with HPAI outbreaks in 2015.
Raw Milk: West Virginia Legalizes Herd Share Distribution Agreements
On March 4, 2016, West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin signed into law legislation permitting shared animal ownership agreements for the purpose of consuming raw milk (S.B. 387). According to the legislation, a responsible party may now acquire a percentage ownership in a milk producing animal and receive a share of the animal’s raw milk production. Nevertheless, the legislation states that this percentage ownership does not allow for any further distribution of the raw milk production received and that “[t]he sale or resale of milk obtained from a herd share is strictly prohibited.”
Crop Insurance: Pennsylvania Deadline Nears for Spring Planted Crops
Tuesday March 15, 2016, is the final day for Pennsylvania farmers to either apply for crop insurance on most insurable spring planted crops or make changes to their present crop insurance policies regarding spring planted crops. According to the United States Department of Agriculture's Risk Management Agency, farmers that meet the March 15, 2016 deadline have the ability to obtain coverage “for cabbage, corn, forage seeding, fresh market sweet corn, fresh market tomatoes, grain sorghum, green peas, potatoes, processing beans, processing sweet corn, processing tomatoes, soybeans, spring barley, spring oats, and tobacco in Pennsylvania.” Further information regarding crop insurance is available at http://www.rma.usda.gov/.
Conservation: USDA Announces Availability of $20 Million for Conservation Projects
On March 7, 2016, the United States Department of Agriculture issued a press release stating the availability of $20 million for conservation projects through the Department’s Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program. According to the press release, CIG “is designed to focus on innovative conservation projects that promote science-based solutions to benefit both producers and the environment.” The press release stated that qualifying “[p]rojects may include on-farm pilot projects and field demonstrations, and are funded to accelerate the transfer and adoption of promising technologies to landowners in order to address critical natural resource concerns.”
Clean and Green: Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee Considers Amending Use Values
On March 8, 2016, the Pennsylvania State Senate Agricultural and Rural Affairs committee announced that on Tuesday March 15, 2016, it will hold a meeting to consider House Bill 806 (HB 806). According to the House Co-Sponsorship Memoranda issued by Representative Martin Causer, the purpose of the proposed legislation is to amend the Pennsylvania Farmland and Forest Land Assessment Act of 1974 (commonly known as Clean and Green) “to prohibit the application of use values that result in assessments higher than fair market value.” The committee meeting considering HB 806 will be held at 8:45am in the State Capitol, Room 8E-A, East Wing.