Thursday, September 8, 2016

Agricultural Law Weekly Review—September 8, 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:

GMO Labeling: GMA and Vermont Agree to Voluntarily Dismiss Litigation
On September 1, 2016, the United States District Court for the District of Vermont signed an order of voluntary dismissal in the state GMO labeling case Grocery Manufacturers Association v. Sorrell (Case No. 5:14-cv-117-cr, Document 161).  According to the order, the parties agreed to voluntarily dismiss the action without prejudice because: (1) on July 29, 2016, President Obama signed into law S.764 which established a “National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard;” (2) on August 1, 2016, USDA stated that S.764 preempted states from requiring the labeling of any genetically engineered food or seed in interstate commerce; and (3) on August 2, 2016, Vermont’s Attorney General (Sorrell) announced that the state would no longer enforce Vermont Act 120 which required the labeling of food produced with genetic engineering.

Broiler Litigation: Class Action Filed Alleging Chicken Processors Colluded to Manipulate Prices
On September 2, 2016, a class action was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois against twenty-seven chicken processor entities for allegedly conspiring and combining “to fix, raise, maintain, and stabilize the price” of broiler chickens (Maplevale Farms, Inc. v. Koch Foods, Inc., Case No. 1:16-cv-08637). According to the filed complaint, “[t]he principal (but not exclusive) method by which Defendants implemented and executed their conspiracy was by coordinating their output and limiting production with the intent and expected result of increasing prices of Broilers in the United States.” The complaint alleged that the “Defendants exchanged detailed, competitively sensitive, and closely-guarded non-public information about prices, capacity, sales volume, and demand, including through third party co-conspirator Agri Stats.” 

Labor: Court Agrees to Hear Pesticide Exposure Case
On September 2, 2016, the United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit agreed to hear an action brought by foreign agricultural laborers who had worked on Central and South American banana plantations in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s (Chavez v. Dole Food Company, Inc., WL 4578641).  According to the court, the plaintiff’s in the action “allege that their employers and certain chemical companies knowingly exposed them to toxic pesticides over many years and that this exposure caused adverse health consequences.” The court stated that the litigation first began in Texas state court in 1993, but that “no court has reached the merits of the plaintiff’s claims.” The court expressed a desire that after two decades the litigation “proceeds with more alacrity than it has to the present date.”

FSMA: FDA Issues Report from Public Meeting
On September 2, 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a report on findings from three June 2016 public meetings held in California, Michigan, and New Jersey regarding the implementation of import safety programs under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).  According to FDA, the three public meetings “were designed to assess the state of importer readiness, elicit feedback, ideas, and comments regarding FSMA programs, and identify training and outreach ideas that could be helpful in supporting industry compliance with [Foreign Supplier Verification Programs] requirements.” 

FSMA: FDA Announces Draft Guidance Webinar
On September 6, 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a press release announcing that on September 19, 2016 (1:00 PM to 2:00 PM ET) FDA’s Foods and Veterinary Program will hold a public webinar to discuss FDA’s preventive controls hazard analysis and risk-based draft guidance.  According to FDA, “[t]his Draft Guidance provides the first five chapters of what will be a multi-chapter guidance designed to help businesses comply with the Preventive Controls for Human Food Rule…[and] explains FDA’s current thinking on how to comply with the requirements for hazard analysis and risk-based preventive controls and includes a discussion about establishing a food safety plan.”  

Legislation: Horse Breeding Fund Bill Referred to PA House Ag Committee
On September 1, 2016, proposed legislation regarding the Pennsylvania Breeding Fund was referred to the Pennsylvania House Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee (HB 2303).  According to the bill’s co-sponsorship memoranda, HB 2303 will provide “clarify[ing] language regarding the eligibility of thoroughbred breeders and owners receiving payments from the Pennsylvania Breeding Fund, a restricted account within the State Racing Fund that provides incentive awards for winning Pennsylvania born/bred thoroughbred race horses.” Additionally, according to the co-sponsorship memoranda, HB 2303 “will also provide for the distribution of awards to breeders and owners of PA-Bred and PA Sired Thoroughbred race horses, using language reached in a recent compromise with the Senate.”

Legislation: Food Handling Bill Referred to PA House Ag Committee
On September 7, 2016, proposed legislation regarding retail food facility and employee cleanliness was referred to the Pennsylvania House Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee (HB 2312).  According to the co-sponsorship memoranda, HB 2312 would require all establishments serving food to post reminders for their food handlers that Pennsylvania food safety law “prohibits food preparers and food servers in retail food facilities from having bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat food.”

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