Thursday, November 10, 2016

Agricultural Law Weekly Review—November 10, 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:

Clean and Green: Commonwealth Court Rules Tax Sale is not a Split-off
On November 7, 2016, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania determined that a landowner’s failure to pay property taxes, which resulted in a tax-upset sale, was not a “split-off” under the Pennsylvania Clean and Green program and did not trigger the roll-back tax penalty (A. Maula v. Northampton County of Assessment and County of Northampton - 1341 C.D. 2015).  For a more details, please see previous Center article. 

Animal Welfare: Massachusetts Voters Approve Animal Containment Law
On November 8, 2016, Massachusetts voters approved an animal welfare ballot initiative entitled: The Massachusetts Minimum Size Requirements for Farm Animal Containment.  Also known as Question 3, the new law prohibits “breeding pigs, calves raised for veal, and egg-laying hens from being held in confined spaces…[and] applie[s] to business owners who knowingly sell pork, veal, or eggs from animals held in this way, even if the source is outside of Massachusetts.” 

FSMA: FDA Releases Draft Guidance for Food Facility Registration
On November 7, 2016, the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) released a guidance document entitled: Draft Guidance forIndustry: Questions and Answers Regarding Food Facility Registration (Seventh Edition).  Jointly prepared by the Office of Compliance in the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, the Office of Surveillance and Compliance in the Center for Veterinary Medicine, and the Office of Regulatory Affairs at FDA, the guidance document was developed to answer frequently asked questions relating to the registration requirements of section 415 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

FSMA: FDA Releases Guidance for Voluntary Qualified Importer Program
On November 10, 2016, the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) released a guidance document entitled: Guidance for Industry:FDA's Voluntary Qualified Importer Program.  The guidance document describes FDA’s policy regarding participation in FDA’s Voluntary Qualified Importer Program (VQIP) by importers of food for humans or animals, and provides guidance on: (1) The benefits VQIP importers can expect to receive; (2) The eligibility criteria for VQIP participation; (3) Instructions for completing a VQIP application; (4) Conditions that may result in revocation of participation in VQIP; and (5) Criteria for VQIP reinstatement following revocation. 

Tax Legislation: PA Amends the Local Tax Enabling Act
On November 4, 2016, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed into law Act 150 which amends the Commonwealth’s Local Tax Enabling Act (SB 356).  The amendments included a provision for the definition of the term "farming" and language that incorporates farmer estimated tax provisions to parallel those used by the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue.

Specialty Crops: PA Awarded $925,000 in Federal Grants
On November 8, 2016, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) issued a press release announcing that “[t]wenty-one Pennsylvania projects will strengthen the state’s specialty crop industries through research, education, and marketing with nearly $925,000 in federal grants.” According to PDA, “[t]he projects address a range of agricultural priorities like food safety, producer education, plant pest research, and consumer connection to agriculture through farm-to-school curricula.” Included among the awards was a $20,000 grant for the Center for Agricultural and Shale Law to conduct workshops to teach producers about federal and state labor laws that have potential applications to their operations.

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