Thursday, May 4, 2017

Agricultural Law Weekly Review—May 4, 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:

Menu Labeling: FDA Extends Compliance Date to 2018
On May 1, 2017, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) announced that the agency “is extending the compliance date for menu labeling requirements from May 5, 2017 to May 7, 2018.” According to FDA, the reason for the extension is to permit “further consideration of what opportunities there may be to reduce costs and enhance the flexibility of these requirements beyond those reflected in the interim final rule.” Additionally, FDA stated that beginning on May 4, 2017, it is inviting comments for sixty (60) days regarding the menu labeling requirements.

School Lunch Program: USDA to Allow More Nutritional Requirement “Flexibility”
On May 1, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that the agency “will provide greater flexibility in nutrition requirements for school meal programs in order to make food choices both healthful and appealing to students.” To accomplish this goal, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue “signed a proclamation which begins the process of restoring local control of guidelines on whole grains, sodium, and milk.” Secretary Perdue stated that the “announcement is the result of years of feedback from students, schools, and food service experts about the challenges they are facing in meeting the final regulations for school meals.” Secretary Perdue further asserted, “[i]f kids aren't eating the food, and it’s ending up in the trash, they aren't getting any nutrition – thus undermining the intent of the program.”

National Organic Program: Compliant Filed Against Organic Dairy for Alleged Violations
On May 2, 2017, the Cornucopia Institute announced that the organization has filed a formal legal complaint with USDA against Aurora Dairy and the Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) for alleged violations of federal organic regulations.  Cornucopia stated that “Aurora Dairy is the largest supplier of ‘private label,’ or store-brand, organic milk in the U.S., supplying such retail giants as Walmart, Costco, [and] Target…” and that CDA is Aurora Dairy’s organic certifier.  Cornucopia asserted that a recent Washington Post investigative story has revealed photographic evidence that Aurora Dairy’s dairy herd is not being pastured as required by organic law.  As a result, Cornucopia requested that USDA investigate Aurora Dairy for possible illegalities.  

International Trade: U.S. Announces Preliminary Countervailing Duty on Canadian Lumber
On April 24, 2017, the U.S. Department of Commerce (Commerce) announced that the department has reached a “preliminary determination in the countervailing duty (CVD) investigation of softwood lumber from Canada.” Commerce stated that “CVD law provides U.S. businesses and workers with an internationally accepted mechanism to seek relief from the injurious effects of unfairly subsidized imports into the United States.” According to Commerce’s preliminary determination, “exporters of softwood lumber from Canada received countervailable subsidies of 3.02 percent to 24.12 percent.” According to Commerce, “[i]n 2016, [U.S.] imports of softwood lumber from Canada were valued at an estimated $5.66 billion.” The press release stated that “[a]s a result of today’s determination, Commerce will instruct U.S. Customs and Border Protection to collect cash deposits based on these preliminary rates.”

International Trade: President Agrees to Remain in NAFTA
On April 26, 2017, the White House Office of the Press Secretary announced that after meeting with President Peña Nieto of Mexico and Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada, “President Trump agreed not to terminate NAFTA at this time.” The press release stated that the three “leaders agreed to proceed swiftly, according to their required internal procedures, to enable the renegotiation of the NAFTA deal to the benefit of all three countries.” President Trump stated that “[i]t is an honor to deal with both President Peña Nieto and Prime Minister Trudeau, and I believe that the end result will make all three countries stronger and better.”

West Virginia Governor Signs Medical Cannabis and Industrial Hemp Legislation
Recently, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice signed into law separate legislation regarding Medical Cannabis and Industrial Hemp.  On April 19, 2017, Governor Justice signed the Medical Cannabis Act which provides seriously ill patients access to medical cannabis (Senate Bill 386).  According to a press release from Governor Justice, as a result of the legislation, “West Virginia is now the 29th state to allow the medical use of cannabis.” On April 25, 2017, Governor Justice signed House Bill 2453 which amended West Virginia’s Industrial Hemp Development Act.  Accordingly, the new legislation expands “the list of persons the Commissioner of Agriculture may license to grow or cultivate industrial hemp.”

GMOs: Syngenta Trials to Begin in Minnesota 
On April 24, 2017, Bloomberg reported that multiple trials were set to begin in Minnesota state court regarding lawsuits brought by farmers and grain handlers against Syngenta AG.  According to Bloomberg, the farmers and grain handlers allege that “Syngenta rushed its Viptera genetically engineered corn, and then a second insect-resistant GMO seed, to market before obtaining import approval from China.” As a result, the farmers and grain handlers assert that “[t]he subsequent rejection of U.S. corn shipments ended up depressing corn prices for five years as China continued to buy from other countries…”

Pennsylvania Legislation:
  • HB 187: Allow Wind Energy on Farmland Preservation (Agriculture & Rural Affairs [House], Reported out of committee, April 26, 2017)
  • HB 790: Controlled Plant and Noxious Weed Act (Agriculture & Rural Affairs [House], Reported out of committee, April 26, 2017)
  • HB 1328: Amending the Recreational Use of Land Liability Law (Referred to Tourism & Recreational Development [House], May 2, 2017) 
Pennsylvania Actions and Notices:
Department of Agriculture

State Horse Racing Commission
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