Thursday, October 20, 2016

Agricultural Law Weekly Review—October 20, 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:

Food: Court Dismisses Improper Influence Challenge to Dietary Guidelines
On October 12, 2016, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed a lawsuit alleging that the dietary cholesterol recommendations in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 8th Edition was the result of improper influence from the egg industry (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine v. Vilsack, Case No. 3:16-cv-00069).  According to the court, the plaintiff, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, asserted that both the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the United States Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) violated of the Federal Advisory Committee Act and the Administrative Procedure Act by failing to prevent “special interest from inappropriately influencing the advisory committee that makes recommendations for updating national dietary guidelines.” The court dismissed the case due to lack of subject matter jurisdiction asserting that “the relevant law provides no meaningful standard by which the court can judge the agencies’ exercise of discretion.”

Dairy: Federal Lawmakers Request Assistance for Dairy Producers
On October 13, 2016, a bipartisan coalition of 56 members of the United States Senate and United States House of Representatives (including Senator Robert P. Casey Jr. PA-D and Representative Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson PA-R) issued a letter to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Shaun Donovan requesting resources to support the nation’s struggling dairy industry.  According to the letter, “[d]airy farmers have seen their income cut in half as farm milk prices have plunged by 40 percent since 2014…[w]ith market forecasts showing that dairy farmers will continue to face depressed prices.” The letter stated that Congress has already “asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to take any and all actions to support U.S. dairy farmers…and we now ask [OMB] to do all you can to support the Secretary of Agriculture in this work.” 

Inspection: GIPSA Settles a Carcass Trim Procedure Case with Tyson Fresh Meats
On October 11, 2016, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) announced that the agency has entered into a Consent Decision with Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc. (Tyson) regarding Tyson’s failure to notify hog producers of a change in carcass trim procedures.  According to GIPSA, the failure to notify, which occurred at two of the company’s plants, resulted in Tyson paying a civil penalty of $22,500 and agreeing “to cease and desist from failing to disclose, or otherwise make known to hog producers, prior to purchase, a description of the carcass trim procedure to be used in determining the weight of producer’s hogs.” 

Animal Welfare: HSUS Files FTC Advertising Complaint against Davidson’s Eggs
On October 14, 2016, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) issued a press release stating that the organization has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) alleging that National Pasteurized Eggs (which are sold nationally under the Davidson’s brand name) violated federal false advertising laws by misrepresenting how the company’s eggs are produced.  According to HSUS, “Davidson’s cartons prominently depict lush open pastures, a red barn and free-roaming hens—despite eggs in those cartons coming from birds permanently locked in cages so tightly they can’t even spread their wings.”  HSUS further stated that “[c]ontrary to the messaging conveyed on the packaging, these birds never feel sunlight nor touch a blade of grass.”

Final Rule: Agricultural Conservation Easement Program
On October 18, 2016, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) published notice in the Federal Register announcing of a final rule regarding implementation of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) (81 FR 71818).  According the notice, on February 27, 2015, NRCS published an interim rule and requested public comment regarding the implement of ACEP, which is a voluntary program to help farmers and ranchers preserve their agricultural land and restore, protect, and enhance wetlands on eligible lands. The notice stated that “NRCS received 1,055 comments from 102 respondents to the interim rule” and made adjustments to final rule, which became effective October 18, 2016.

PA Bulletin: Milk Marketing Board Hearing Announced
On October 15, 2016, the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board (Board) published notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin that the Board “will conduct a public hearing for Milk Marketing Area No. 4 on December 8, 2016, at 10 a.m. in Room 202, Agriculture Building, 2301 North Cameron Street, Harrisburg, PA” (46 Pa.B. 6593).  According to the notice, “[t]he purpose of the hearing is to receive testimony and exhibits concerning cost replacement in Milk Marketing Area No. 4.”

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