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:
Big Data: DOJ Sues to Prevent Deere’s Acquisition of Precision Planting
On August 31, 2016, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) brought an anti-trust action in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division to prevent Deere & Company’s (Deere) from acquiring Precision Planting LLC (Precision Planting), a subsidiary of Monsanto Company (U.S.Department of Justice v. Deere & Co., Case No. 1:16-cv-08515). According to the filed complaint, Deere and Precision Planting currently account for 86% of all high-speed precision planting system sales in the United States and as a result, DOJ asserted “the proposed acquisition likely would lessen competition substantially, and tend to create a monopoly…in violation of Section 7 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. § 18.”
Labor: California Governor Presented with Bill Removing Agricultural Worker Overtime Exemption
On August 30, 2016, California Governor Edmund G. (“Jerry”) Brown was presented with legislation which would require California agricultural producers to pay overtime to agricultural employees (AB 1066). If signed by the Governor, AB 1066 “would remove the exemption for agricultural employees regarding hours, meal breaks, and other working conditions, including specified wage requirements, and would create a schedule that would phase in overtime requirements for agricultural workers…over the course of 4 years.” The proposed legislation would also allow agricultural producers with 25 or fewer employees an additional 3 years to phase in the overtime requirements.
HPAI: Avian Influenza Found in Wild Duck in Alaska
On August 26, 2016, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) “confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza (HPAI) in a wild mallard duck from a state wildlife refuge near Fairbanks, Alaska.” According to APHIS, this recent discover is the first reported case of H5N5 HPAI—in either wild or commercial birds—in the United States since June 2015.
Water: DEP Extends NPDES General Permit for Point Source Discharges to Waters of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania from the Application of Pesticides
On August 27, 2016, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) published notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin that the department was “extending for 12 months, the availability of the current [National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System—NPDES] General Permit for Point Source Discharges to Waters of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania from the Application of Pesticides (PAG-15)” (46 Pa.B. 5640). According to DEP, “[t]he existing PAG-15 in effect at this time will expire on October 28, 2016…[and] [p]ersons that are operating under the PAG-15 General Permit may continue to operate until October 28, 2017, or the expiration date of coverage identified on the permit coverage approval page, whichever is later.
Inspection: FSIS Announces Request to Renew Voluntary Interstate Shipment of Meat and Poultry Products Program
On August 26, 2016, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) published notice in the Federal Register “announcing its intention to renew the approved information collection regarding the voluntary cooperative interstate shipment program” (81 FR 58903). According to FSIS, the program in question is a voluntary cooperative inspection program, administered by FSIS, “under which State-inspected establishments with 25 or fewer employees are eligible to ship meat and poultry products in interstate commerce.” The comment period for the published notice ends October 25, 2016.
Raw Milk: Utah Dept. of Health Links Salmonellosis Outbreak to Raw Milk
On August 30, 2016, the Utah Department of Health issued a news release announcing that State health officials were investigating nine illnesses associated with the consumption of raw milk purchased at Heber Valley Milk in Wasatch County, Utah. According to the news release, on August 23, 2016, “a raw milk sample collected at the dairy by a Utah Department of Agriculture and Food inspector was positive for Salmonella Saintpaul.” The news release also stated that recent testing of raw milk samples collected from Heber Valley Milk have not tested positive for salmonella, and as a result, the dairy has been allowed to resume sales.
Beef: AMS Proposes Amendment to the Beef Promotion and Research Rules and Regulations
On August 23, 2016, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) published notice in the Federal Register of a “proposed rule [that] would amend the Beef Promotion and Research Order (Order) established under the Beef Promotion and Research Act of 1985 (Act) to add six Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) codes for imported veal and veal products and update assessment levels for imported veal and veal products based on revised determinations of live animal equivalencies” (81 FR57495). The comment period for the proposed rule closes October 24, 2016.