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:
Medical Marijuana: Pennsylvania Establishes Medical Marijuana Program
On April 17, 2016, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed into law the establishment of the Commonwealth’s medical marijuana program (Act 16). Under the enacted legislation, only persons holding a permit from the Department of Health of the Commonwealth (the Department) may grow or process medical marijuana. Accordingly, the Department is only authorized to issue 25 permits throughout the entire state and must charge each permit holder a $10,000 permit application fee, a $200,000 permit fee, and a $10,000 yearly permit renewal fee.
Legislation: Committee Approves Agricultural Appropriations Bill
On April 19, 2016, United States House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations approved the Fiscal Year 2017 Agriculture Appropriations Bill (the Bill). Of note, approval of the Bill included amendments that: 1) prevent the slaughter of horses for human consumption; 2) delay a new rule by USDA to change the requirements for approved SNAP retailers; and 3) prevent a Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration regulation that would place restrictions on poultry, beef and pork marketing arrangements.
Dairy Production: USDA Updates Margin Protection Program for Dairy
On April 13, 2016, the United States Department of Agriculture Commodity Credit Corporation published notice in the Federal Register “amend[ing] the regulations for the Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MPP-Dairy) to allow dairy operations to update their production history when a son, daughter, grandchild, or spouse of a child or grandchild of a current producer participating in the MPP-Dairy program joins the operation” (81 FR 21699). Additionally, the final “rule provides for a later due date for the payment of the entire premium and clarifies that dairy operations that purchase buy-up coverage on less than 90 percent of their production history will also receive catastrophic coverage on the balance, up to 90 percent of the production history.” The final rule became effective April 13, 2016.
Fruit Importation: APHIS Reopens Comment Period Regarding European Apples and Pears
On April 15, 2016, the United States Department of Agriculture animal and Plant Health Inspection Service published notice in the Federal Register that the agency was “reopening the comment period for our proposed rule that would amend the regulations to allow the importation of fresh apple and pear fruit from certain countries in the European Union into the continental United States, provided that the fruit is produced in accordance with a systems approach, as an alternative to importation under the current preclearance program” (81 FR 22203). The proposed rule in question was originally published in the Federal Register January 20, 2016 (81 FR 3033). The reopened comment period for the proposed rule closes May 5, 2016.
Marketing Order: USDA Adopts Final Rule on Tart Cherries
On April 18, 2016, the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service published notice in the Federal Register that the agency was “adopting, as a final rule, without change an interim rule implementing a recommendation from the Cherry Industry Administrative Board (Board) that revised the exemption provisions under the marketing order for tart cherries grown in the States of Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin” (81 FR 22511). Accordingly, “[t]he interim rule changed the number of years that new market development and market expansion projects are eligible for handler diversion credit from one year to three years…[and] revised the composition of the subcommittee which reviews exemption requests.” The effective date for the affirmation of the interim rule as final rule was April 19, 2016.
Animal Drugs: FDA Publishes Final Rule for New Animal Drugs
On April, 18, 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services Food and Drug and Administration (FDA) published notice in the Federal Register of a final rule “amending the animal drug regulations to reflect application-related actions for new animal drug applications (NADAs) and abbreviated new animal drug applications (ANADAs) during January and February 2016” (81 FR 22520). According to the final rule, “FDA is also informing the public of the availability of summaries of the basis of approval and of environmental review documents, where applicable.” The final rule became effective April 18, 2016.
FSMA: OSHA Publishes Final Rule for Employee Protection
On April 18, 2016, the United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration published notice in the Federal Register “provid[ing] the final text of regulations governing the employee protection (retaliation or whistleblower) provision found at section 402 of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)” (81 FR 22530). The final rule became effective April 18, 2016.
Farmland Preservation: 32 New PA Farms Added to Protected List
On April 15, 2016, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) issued a press release announcing that “an additional 1,792 acres on 32 farms in 14 counties were safeguarded through the state’s nation-leading farmland preservation program.” According to PDA: “[s]ince the program began in 1988, federal, state, county and local governments have invested more than $1.3 billion to preserve 520,619 acres on 4,951 farms in 57 counties for future agricultural production.”