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:
Animal Welfare: USDA Announces Intent to Hold Livestock Owners, Transporters, and Haulers Responsible for Inhumane Handling
On October 26, 2016, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) published notice in the Federal Register of a final determination and opportunity to comment regarding the agency’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” (81 FR74280). According to the notice, the comment period closes November 25, 2016 and “FSIS will implement the actions discussed in this document on January 24, 2017, unless FSIS receives comments that demonstrate a need to revise this date.”
GMO Labeling: USDA Seeks Proposals to Study Electronic or Digital Link Disclosure
On October 19, 2016, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) issued a press release requesting the submission of “proposals to conduct a Study on the Electronic or Digital Link Disclosure.” According to USDA, “[t]he study is required by the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard (Pub. L. 114-216) to identify potential technological challenges that may impact whether consumers would have access to a bioengineered food disclosure on food packages through electronic or digital methods.”
Animal Welfare: U.N. Committee Approves New Animal Health and Welfare Policy
On October 21, 2016, the United Nations Committee of World Food Security approved new policy recommendations regarding animal health and welfare (CFS 2016/43/2/Rev.1). The recommendations include: (1) providing access to veterinary services and medication; (2) improved biosafety and biosecurity; (3) prudent use and phase-out of antibiotics; and (4) promoting good feed. Additionally, the policy calls for the improved delivery of the World Organization for Animal Health’s Five Freedoms which include: (1) freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition; (2) freedom from fear and distress; (3) freedom from physical and thermal discomfort; (4) freedom from pain, injury or disease; and (5) freedom to express normal patterns of behavior.
Biofuels: New York Mayor Signs Law Increasing Percentage of Biodiesel in Heating Oil
On October 18, 2016, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a press release announcing that he had signed into law legislation designed to increase the ratio of biodiesel in heating oil sold in the City. According to the new law, New York City now “requires heating oil sold or used in the City to contain: 5% biodiesel, by volume, starting October 1, 2017; 10%, starting October 1, 2025; 15%, starting October 1, 2030; [and] 20%, starting October 1, 2034” (2016/119).
Dog Breeding: PDA Announces Intent to Rescind Commercial Kennel Canine Health Regulation
On October 22, 2016, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) published notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin of the department’s intention to rescind Commercial Kennel Canine Health Regulation § 28a.8(5) relating to flooring (46 Pa.B. 6646). According to PDA, § 28a.8(5) currently states: “Nursing mothers. Primary enclosures, including whelping boxes, housing bitches with nursing litters or housing dams or foster dams with puppies under 12 weeks of age must be constructed so that at least 50% of the flooring of the primary enclosure complies with the standards established under section 207(i)(3) of the act.” The notice stated that the “Commonwealth Court recently determined that § 28a.8(5) directly contradicts express statutory provisions of the [Pennsylvania Dog Law (3 P.S. §§ 459-101—459-1205)] and violates the legislative intent.” PDA stated that “[t]his determination was made on September 9, 2016, in BarbaraKeith et al. v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Agriculture (394 M.D. 2014).”
Farmland Preservation: PDA Announces Availability of Federal Funds to Protect Commonwealth’s Farms
On October 21, 2016, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) issued a press release announcing that “[a]n agreement between the federal Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) and Pennsylvania’s nation-leading farmland preservation program will again give the state access to millions of federal dollars to help preserve the state’s best and most threatened farmland.” According to PDA, “Pennsylvania has been without a cooperative agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) since 2014 when the last Farm Bill became law, changing the terms of the federal program.”
Loans: USDA Announces Streamlined Loans for Small Operators
On October 20, 2016, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a press release announcing that the agency was making available “a streamlined version of USDA guaranteed loans, which are tailored for smaller scale farms and urban producers.” According to USDA, “[t]he program, called EZ Guarantee Loans, uses a simplified application process to help beginning, small, underserved and family farmers and ranchers apply for loans of up to $100,000 from USDA-approved lenders to purchase farmland or finance agricultural operations.”