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:
Chesapeake Bay: Supreme Court Decides Not to Hear TMDL Case
On February 29, 2016, the Supreme Court of the United States denied petition for certiorari in the case American Farm Bureau Federation v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Docket No.15-999). In denying the petition for certiorari, the Court chose not to make a decision on the matter, and as a result, the lower court ruling remains law. The case in question involved American Farm Bureau Federation’s contention that the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit incorrectly determined that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had the authority to establish “total maximum daily loads” (TMDLs) in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed (American Farm Bureau Federation v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 792 F.3d 28).
GMO Labeling: Senate Committee on Agriculture Passes Draft Bill on GMO Labeling
On March 1, 2016, the United States Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry issued a press release stating that, by a bipartisan vote of 14-6, the Committee had passed draft legislation designed to nationalize the labeling of genetically engineered food and seeds. According to the Committee Chairman, Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., “the legislation before us provides an immediate and comprehensive solution to the state-by-state patchwork of labeling law [and]…sets national uniformity, based on science, for labeling food or seeds that are genetically engineered.” The draft legislation now heads to the full Senate for consideration.
Livestock Owner Liability: Missouri House Passes Bill on Trespassing Livestock
On February 29, 2016, by a vote of 108-45, the Missouri House of Representatives advanced legislation (H.R. 1827) designed to change Missouri’s law governing the liability of livestock owners when their livestock escapes from confined areas. Currently, under Missouri law, regardless of any precautions taken, livestock owners are strictly liable for any damages that may occur when their livestock escape and trespass on another’s property. Under H.R. 1827, however, a livestock owner would only “be liable for any damages sustained if the owner of the trespassing horses, cattle, or other stock was negligent.” H.R. 1827 now advances to the Missouri Senate for consideration.
Labor: Hormel Must Pay Employees for Time Donning and Doffing Clothing and Gear
On March 1, 2016, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that Hormel Foods Corporation must pay its employees at its Beloit, Wisconsin processing plant for the time the employees take to put-on and take-off clothing and safety gear. According to the court opinion, the parties agreed that the time in question took each employee an average of 5.7 minutes per employee per day and amounted to $500 per employee per year. According to the court, “the employees' donning and doffing clothing and equipment at the beginning and end of the day brought Hormel into compliance with federal food and safety regulations and was integral and indispensable to sanitation and safety in the employees' principal work activities, namely food production.”