Thursday, March 17, 2016

Agricultural Law Weekly Review—March 17, 2016

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:

International Trade: Peru Agrees to Reduced Restrictions on U.S. Beef
On March 14, 2016, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a press release announcing that Peru has agreed to reduce restrictions on the importation of U.S. beef and beef products.  According USDA, previously, Peru had only accepted the importation of U.S. beef and beef products from U.S. “establishments that participated in the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Export Verification (EV) programs.” Now, however, Peru will accept for importation “beef and beef products from all federally inspected U.S. establishments.” According to USDA, the announced agreement reflects a 2013 decision by the World Organization for Animal Health’s (OIE) to upgrade the U.S.’ bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) risk classification from “controlled BSE risk” to “negligible BSE risk.” For more information, see previous blog post.

GMO Labeling: Senate Votes against Ending Debate on GMO Labeling Bill
On March 16, 2016, the U.S. Senate voted 48-49 against a motion to invoke cloture on Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts’ proposed amendment that would create a “national voluntary bioengineered food labeling standard” (S.2609).  An attempt to end debate and advance the legislation to a vote, the motion fell short of the 60 votes required under Senate Rule 22 (“the cloture rule’).  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), a supporter of the proposed amendment, voted against the motion, and as a result, retains the ability to bring the bill back for a vote in the event a later agreement is reached.

GMO Labeling: Washington Judge Rules GMA Knew of Plan to Conceal Funds to Influence Ballot Initiative
On March 9, 2016, the Superior Court of the State of Washington for Thurston County held that the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) members knew of a plan by GMA to conceal funding efforts made to defeat the passage of Washington’s 2013 ballot Initiative 522; a proposal designed to “require the labeling on all packaged food products that contained Growth Modified Organisms (GMOs)” State of Washington v. Grocery Manufacturers Association (Case No. 13-2-02156-8).  The court held that as a matter of law, GMA’s actions violated the public finance provisions of Washington’s public disclosure law RCW 42.17A, but, in regards to assessing penalties, a question of fact still remained as to whether GMA’s violations were intentional.

Clean and Green: Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee Votes to Amend Application of Use Values
On March 15, 2016, the Pennsylvania State Senate Agricultural and Rural Affairs committee voted unanimously to report House Bill 806 (H.B. 806) out of committee. The legislation, intended to amend the Pennsylvania Farmland and Forest Land Assessment Act of 1974 (commonly known as Clean and Green) so as “to prohibit the application of use values that result in assessments higher than fair market value,” now moves to the full senate for first consideration

SCOTUS: Court Rejects Request by Deere to Stay New Hampshire Equipment Dealer Law
On March 4, 2016, the United States Supreme Court denied a request by Deere & Company, et al. (Deere) to recall and stay a lower court ruling pending the filing of a writ for certiorari (Docket No. 15A910).  As a result, Deere must abide by the Supreme Court of New Hampshire’s ruling upholding the New Hampshire Vehicle Franchise Act (known as the “dealer bill of rights”) regulating equipment dealer contracts regarding such matters as termination of dealer agreements, warranty obligations, and business transfer rights (Deere & Company v. State, 2015 WL 9467010). 

Menu Labeling: FDA Delays Menu Labeling Enforcement
On March 9, 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a statement announcing that FDA would be delaying enforcement of the Menu Labeling Final Rule until “one year after it issues final, Level 1 guidance on menu labeling.” FDA is currently considering comments, and has not set a time for when it will issue final, Level 1 guidance on menu labeling.  Previously, FDA menu labeling enforcement was scheduled to begin December 1, 2016. 

EU: European Commission Announces Support for Struggling Farmers
On March 14, 2016, the European Commission issued a press release announcing a “package of exceptional measures” designed to support struggling European Union farmers in the “dairy, pigmeat, and fruit and vegetable sectors.” According to the Commission, the measures are an acknowledgement “of the current agricultural crisis” and will be in addition to the €500 million agricultural support package announced by the Commission in September 2015.  

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