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:
Litigation: Court Rejects Contract Grower Claims against Pilgrim’s Pride
On April 22, 2016, the United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Marshall Division granted summary judgement and dismissed claims brought by more than 200 poultry growers alleging that Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation (PPC) violated the Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA) by closing two processing facilities (Sheila Adams, et al, v. Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., 2016 WL 1615700). The court disagreed with the poultry growers’ assertion that PPC’s facility closures had violated PSA through an attempt to increase prices by keeping as much chicken off the market as possible.
GMO Ingredients: Court Permits Chipotle Advertisement Lawsuit to Move Forward
On April 20, 2016, the United States District Court Southern District of Florida ruled that a class action lawsuit, alleging that Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. (Chipotle) “misrepresented to customers that its food products contain only non-GMO products,” may proceed (Reilly v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., Case No. 15-Civ-23425-COOKE-TORRES). Specifically, the court stated that the plaintiffs are permitted to proceed with their “allegation that Chipotle’s ‘Non-GMO’ claims ‘mislead consumers into paying a premium price…for inferior products or undesirable ingredients or for products that contain ingredients that are not disclosed.”
Equine Disease: PDA Quarantines Barn after Horse Tests Positive for Equine Infections Anemia
On April 20, 2016, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) issued a press release announcing the quarantine “of an equine barn in Halifax, Dauphin County, after a horse at the barn tested positive for Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) on Monday, April 18.” According to PDA, both the barn and the horses will be quarantined for at least 60 days. PDA further stated that EIA poses no health threat to humans and that “[t]he quarantine can be lifted after the remaining horses are determined not to be infected.”
Contract Review: USDA to Continue Payments for Pork Trademarks
On April 20, 2016, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced that the agency “has completed its review of the 2006 asset purchase agreement between the National Pork Board and the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) for the purchase of four trademarks…[which] include the word ‘pork’ in distinctive lettering set against a pork loin silhouette and ‘The Other White Meat’ in various forms.” According to USDA, “[a]s a result [of the review], AMS is approving continuing annual payments of $3 million under the terms of the agreement.”
Department Structure: PDA Announces Reorganization
On April 23, 2016, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) published notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin that “[t]he Executive Board approved a reorganization of the Department of Agriculture effective April 4, 2016” (46 Pa.B. 20165). Of note, “at the request of the Joint Committee on Documents under 1 Pa. Code § 3.1(a)(9) (relating to contents of Code)” PDA’s reorganization is published through the use of an organizational chart.
Regulation: USDA Proposes Amendment to Voluntary Grading of Shell Eggs
On April 20, 2016, the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service published notice in the Federal Register that the agency was “propos[ing] to amend the Regulations Governing the Voluntary Grading of Shell Eggs to clarify the definition of ‘condition’ and revise the prerequisite requirement for shell eggs eligible for voluntary USDA grading and certification” (81 FR 23188). The comment period for the proposed rule closes June 20, 2016.