Thursday, October 13, 2016

Agricultural Law Weekly Review—October 13, 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:

Zoning: Court Rules Poultry Processing Included in Ordinance’s Definition Agriculture
On October 4, 2016, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania determined that Paradise Township (Township), York County, Pennsylvania must permit a commercial poultry processing facility under the Township Zoning Ordinance’s (Ordinance) definition of agriculture (Balady Farms, LLC, v. Paradise Township, No. 171 C.D. 2016).  The court stated that the Ordinance defines agriculture as “[a]n enterprise that is actively engaged in the commercial production and preparation for market or use of…livestock and livestock products…[and that] livestock specifically includes poultry.” According to the court, the “proposed addition of a chicken processing facility for chickens raised and bred on the farm…falls squarely within the Township’s definition of ‘agriculture’ and, thus, is permitted in the Township’s [Rural Conservation] District.” The court asserted that this interpretation of agriculture is consistent with Pennsylvania’s Municipalities Planning Code, Right to Farm Act, and Agricultural Communities and Rural Environment Act (ACRE) which are intended to provide statutory protect for the Commonwealth’s agricultural operations. 

Animal Welfare: FSIS Proposal to hold Livestock Transporters and Haulers Liable for Abuse
On October 7, 2016, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued an advance copy of a document submitted to the Office of the Federal Register entitled Inhumane Handling of Livestock in Connection with
Slaughter by Persons Not Employed by the Official Establishment (Docket No. FSIS-2016-0004).  The document announces FSIS’s “intent to hold livestock owners, transporters, haulers and other persons not employed by an official establishment responsible if they commit acts involving inhumane handling of livestock in connection with slaughter when on the premises of an official establishment.”  FSIS stated that “[t]he Agency intends to initiate civil or criminal action, in appropriate circumstances, against individuals not employed by an official establishment, if these individuals handle livestock inhumanely in connection with slaughter when on the official premises.”

Labor:  EEOC Settles Disability Discrimination Lawsuit with Harrison Poultry
On October 4, 2016, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a press release announcing that the agency had reached a settlement agreement with Harrison Poultry, Inc., regarding alleged employment disability discrimination at the company’s Bethlehem, Georgia poultry hatchery.  According to the press release, EEOC filed suit in 2014 charging that Harrison Poultry violated federal law when it failed to provide a manager with a reasonable accommodation for his disability and instead fired him.  As part of the settlement, Harrison Poultry will pay the employee $100,000 and adopt an employee accommodation policy consistent with the American with Disabilities Act.

Litigation: EPA Announces Complaint and Settlement Regarding Alleged Violations of Renewable Fuel Standard
On October 4, 2016 the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a press release announcing that the agency and the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) had “filed a complaint against NGL Crude Logistics, LLC and Western Dubuque Biodiesel, LLC and a settlement with Western Dubuque to address alleged violations of the Renewable Fuel Standard.”  According to EPA, “[t]he complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, alleges that NGL entered into a series of transactions with Western Dubuque in 2011 that resulted in the generation of approximately 36 million invalid renewable identification numbers (RINs)… [which] are credits created when a company produces qualifying renewable fuel and can be traded or sold to refineries and importers to use for compliance with renewable fuel production requirements.” EPA stated that “[u]nder the settlement, Western Dubuque has agreed to pay $6 million to resolve alleged Renewable Fuel Standard program violations for generating RINs for renewable fuel that was produced using unapproved feedstocks and production processes.  According to EPA, “[t]he consent decree does not resolve any claims against NGL.”

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