Thursday, February 2, 2017

Agricultural Law Weekly Review—February 2, 2017

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:

WOTUS: Court Rules against Army Corps’ Clean Water Act Jurisdiction
On January 24, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota held that United States Army Corps of Engineers had incorrectly claimed Clean Water Act jurisdiction over a peat mining operation in Minnesota (Hawkes Co. v. U.S. Army Corps of Eng’rs, Civil No. 13-107 ADM/TNL, 2017 WL 359170).  The decision set aside the Corps’ jurisdictional determination regarding the wetland at issue and enjoined the Corps from further attempts to assert jurisdiction over the property.  For more analysis of this case, please see the Center’s recent Agricultural Law in the Spotlight article found here.

Federal Regulations: President Signs Executive Order Aimed at Regulation Reduction
On January 30, 2017 President Donald J. Trump signed an Executive Order entitled: Reducing Regulations and Controlling Regulatory Costs.  According to the Executive Order, “[u]nless prohibited by law, whenever an executive department or agency publicly proposes for notice and comment or otherwise promulgates a new regulation, it shall identify at least two existing regulations to be repealed.” Additionally, the Executive Order stated, “[f]or fiscal year 2017, which is in progress, the heads of all agencies are directed that the total incremental cost of all new regulations, including repealed regulations, to be finalized this year shall be no greater than zero, unless otherwise required by law or consistent with advice provided in writing by the Director of the Office of Management and Budget.”

Farm Credit: FCSIC Adjusts Penalties for Inflation
On January 30, 2017, the Farm Credit System Insurance Corporation (FCSIC) published notice in the Federal Register of a final rule “implement[ing] inflation adjustments to civil money penalties that [FCSIC] may impose under the Farm Credit Act of 1971” (82 FR 8670).  According to FCSIC, under the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015 agencies are required to make annual adjustments for inflation.  FCSIC stated that these “[a]nnual inflation adjustments are based on the percent change between the October Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers (CPI-U) preceding the date of the adjustment, and the prior year's October CPI-U.”

Crop Insurance: Missouri Farmer Indicted for Fraud
On January 31, 2017, the United States Attorney’s Office Western District of Missouri announced that a federal grand jury has indicted a Missouri farmer on charges of crop insurance fraud.  The announcement stated that the farmer, Ryan Ruckman, allegedly engaged in a scheme to defraud the government out nearly $800,000.  According to the United States attorney’s, Ruckman allegedly “claim[ed] federal benefits in his son’s name in order to receive additional payments from the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program (SURE), the Direct and Counter-cyclical Payment program and the Multiple Peril Crop Insurance program.”

Invasive Species: Pennsylvania Expands Spotted Lanternfly Quarantine   
On January 30, 2017, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) announced that three additional townships have been added to the Commonwealths spotted lanternfly quarantine.  The three townships are East Pikeland and Warwick townships in Chester County, and Haycock Township in Bucks County.  The number of townships under the quarantine—which restricts movement of any material or object that can spread the pest—currently stands at seventy four.

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