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:
Menu Labeling: New York City Announces Upcoming Enforcement of New Menu Labeling Rules
On May 18, 2017, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio “announced that all New York City chain food retailers offering prepared foods, or ‘restaurant-type foods,’ will be required to post calorie counts on menu boards.” Additionally, the announcement stated that “chain restaurants and retailers will be required to have full nutritional information – not just calories – for standard menu items available on site, and they will have to post a statement about the daily recommended caloric intake of 2,000 calories.” Accordingly, on August 21, 2017, the New York City Departments of Health and Consumer Affairs “will begin issuing notices of violation subject to fines for not following the updated rule.”
Drones: Court Rules against Registration of “Model” Aircrafts
On May 18, 2017, Air & Space reported that the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has determined “that the FAA’s registration system for small unmanned aircraft was illegal as applied to ‘model’ aircraft.” According to the report, the court determined that the registration program violated the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 which states in Section 336 that FAA “may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft.” The report stated, however, that “[t]he ruling did not affect any aircraft operated for commercial operations under Section 333 or Part 107, so drones of any size operating for business…still have to register.”
International Trade: President Sends Congress Notice of NAFTA Renegotiation
On May 18, 2017, The New York Times reported that “[t]he Trump administration gave Congress official notice…that it plans to renegotiate Nafta.” According to the report, “[i]n a brief letter to lawmakers, Robert Lighthizer, the newly confirmed United States trade representative, said the administration aimed to support economic growth and better-paying jobs through unspecified improvements to Nafta that would modernize the 23-year-old agreement.” According to the report, President Trump “had threatened to withdraw completely from the agreement, only to relent in late April when the leaders of Canada and Mexico, the other parties to the deal, called and asked him to renegotiate instead.”
Immigration Enforcement: ICE Arrests in 2017 Increase by Nearly 40 Percent
On May 17, 2017, Reuters reported that “U.S. arrests of suspected illegal immigrants rose by nearly 40 percent in the first 100 days of Donald Trump's presidency, following executive orders that broadened the scope of who could be targeted for immigration violations.” The report stated that according to the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Thomas Homan, “arrests by his agency jumped to 41,318 between January 22 of this year and the end of April, up from 30,028 arrests in roughly the same period last year.” According to the report, “[o]f those arrested almost two-thirds had criminal convictions.” The report stated, however, that there “was also a significant jump - of more than 150 percent - in the number of immigrants not convicted of further crimes arrested by ICE: 10,800 since the beginning of the year compared to 4,200 non-criminal arrests in the same period in 2016.”
Food Safety: SCOTUS Rejects Appeal of DeCoster Sentencing
On May 23, 2017, The Des Moines Register reported that the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the appeals of Austin "Jack" DeCoster and his son, Peter DeCoster whose Iowa-based egg production company caused a significant salmonella outbreak in 2010. According to the report, in 2015, the father and son were each sentenced to three months in prison because “they knew or should have known about the risks posed by the presence of salmonella in and around millions of egg-laying hens.” The sentencing judge, however, “allowed the DeCosters to stay free while they appealed the sentences, which they argued were unconstitutional and unreasonably harsh.” The report stated that according to the U.S. Supreme Court, the DeCosters cannot further appeal their sentences.
Industrial Hemp/Cannabis: Washington State Governor Signs Organic Marijuana and Industrial Hemp Legislation
On May 17, 2017, Reuters reported that Washington Governor Jay Inslee has “signed a bill that paves the way for the state to create what is believed to be the first system in the United States to certify marijuana as organic.” According to the report, the new legislation "creates a voluntary program for the certification and regulation of organic marijuana products" which is “to be administered by the Washington agriculture department.” Additionally, the report stated that “[w]hile it is legal for adults to smoke marijuana in Washington, it is not legal to grow industrial hemp.” As a result, the new legislation will now provide “for the study of a method to allow hemp to be grown and used for industrial purposes.”
Industrial Hemp/Cannabis: South Carolina Legalizes Industrial Hemp
On May 20, 2017, The State reported that South Carolina has passed legislation legalizing the growing of industrial hemp. According to the report, “Soon, perhaps this summer, the S.C. Department of Agriculture and the State Law Enforcement Division will issue 20 licenses to grow crops on up to 20 acres as a pilot program.” The report stated that to receive a license, a grower must: (1) pass a State Law Enforcement Division background check; (2) work with an in-state research university to develop and market the products; and (3) have a contracted buyer for the hemp.
Industrial Hemp/Cannabis: First Medical Marijuana Cultivation License Awarded in Maryland
On May 18, 2017, Marijuana Business Daily reported that “[t]he Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission gave final approval to the first company to win a cultivation license under the state’s MMJ program.” According to the report, “[t]he announcement…comes nine months after the state revealed 15 preliminary license winners, underscoring the slow rollout of Maryland’s medical cannabis program.” The report stated that the other 14 preliminary license “winners are still undergoing background checks, completing facility buildouts, and obtaining local zoning approval, according to a news release from the commission.”
Industrial Hemp/Cannabis: Colorado Law Protects Hemp Farmers Who Use Federal Water
On May 22, 2017, The Journal reported that Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has “sign[ed] a bill protecting hemp farmers who use water stored in federal reservoirs.” According to the report, “Colorado legalized growing hemp in 2014, but it is still banned at the federal level, creating complications when water from a federal project is used to water it.” As a result, Colorado law makers passed SB 117, entitled Recognize Industrial Hemp Agricultural Product for Agricultural Water Right, which permits Colorado water right holders the right to use the water “on hemp if the person is registered by the state to grow hemp for commercial, or research purposes.”
Food Safety: FDA Announces Updated Produce Safety Network page
On May 23, 2017, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued an update to the agency’s Produce Safety Network page. Accordingly, the updated page, entitled Building the Produce Safety Network, now includes a directory of regional network representatives.
House of Representatives
· HB 790: An Act regulating controlled plants and noxious weeds (Passed by House – May 22, 2017)
Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee (House)
· HB 944: Amending the Public School Code to further provide agricultural education and providing for Commission for Agricultural Education Excellence (Referred to committee – May 19, 2017)
· Got Milk? Too much of it, say U.S. dairy farmer - MarketWatch
· Sec. Perdue says NAFTA will be ‘a better deal’ for farmers, ranchers - Meatingplace
· Chicken chain commits to GAP welfare standards - Meatingplace
· US appeals court sidesteps key ruling with MMJ business owner - Marijuana Business Daily
· Plant-based milk debate heats up as state regulators weigh in at NCIMS meeting - Food Navigator USA
· H-2A Guest Worker Visa Set Another Record - Brownfield Ag News
· FDA asked to allow interstate sales of raw milk with warnings - Food Safety News
· CDC: Raw Milk, Cheese Cause Almost All Dairy Foodborne Illness - Food Safety Magazine
· USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue Defends Elimination of Rural Development Mission Area - National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition blog
· Canadian lawmakers derail GMO labeling bill - Food Chemical News
· Town opposes bill that would expand farm use to weddings, concerts - The Jamestown Press
· American Heart Association: A clean label doesn't necessarily make for a 'healthy' product - Food Navigator USA
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