Thursday, June 22, 2017

Agriculture Law Weekly Review – June 22, 2017

Written by Deanna Smith – Research Assistant

Industrial Hemp/Cannabis: Pennsylvania Issues First Medical Marijuana Permits

On June 20, 2017, the PA Department of Health announced the release of twelve medical marijuana permits for growers and processors throughout Pennsylvania. Two permits per each of the six regions delineated by the PA Department of Health. The recipients “now have six months to become operational before they can begin growing medical marijuana.” John Collins, Director of the Office of Medical Marijuana, said this development keeps them “on track to fulfill the Wolf Administration’s commitment to deliver medical marijuana to patients in 2018.”  For more information, published an article with additional material on the permit recipients.

Antitrust: Dept. of Justice Approves Dow/DuPont Merger

DuPont and Dow Chemical Co. have reached an agreement with the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice regarding the merger of the two companies. A civil antitrust lawsuit and settlement filed June 15, 2017, stipulates that the companies divest certain crop protection and petrochemical products. DuPont’s Finesse herbicide and Rynaxypyr insecticides as well as Dow’s businesses used in food packaging are the few key businesses that must be sold in order to maintain market competition.

International Trade: USDA Proposes to Loosen Restrictions on Chinese Chicken Imports

On June 16, 2017, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) published a proposed rule that would amend their inspection regulations and enable China to export poultry products from birds that have been slaughtered in China to the United States. Currently, China is allowed to export to the U.S. only processed poultry products that have been slaughtered in the U.S. or another eligible country. FSIS has reviewed the poultry slaughter inspection system implemented in China and determined it the equivalent of the U.S. standards in the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA).

GMO Regulation: Two New GMO Products Approved for Shipment to China

On June 14, 2017, Dow Chemical Co. and Monsanto Co. were given permission by China’s Ministry of Agriculture to start shipping two new GMO products to China. Dow AgroSciences’ Enlist corn variety and Monsanto’s Vistive Gold soybean join the 14 other genetically modified crops allowed as U.S. imports into China. Fox Business reported that this decision “comes after Beijing agreed to speed up reviews of biotechnology applications as part of a trade deal with the Trump administration last month.”

Pesticides: Farmworkers and Health Organizations Sue EPA

On June 14, 2017, Earthjustice and Farmworker Justice filed a complaint against the EPA in response to the EPA’s one year delay in implementing the Certification of Pesticide Applicators Rule. This final rule contains updated standards for the protection of those using and handling pesticide applicators. It proposes safety measures such as increased training requirements and a minimum age requirement for applicators.

National Ag Policy: Perdue Hosts First Meeting of the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity

On June 15, 2017, USDA announced that U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue hosted the first meeting of the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity. At the meeting, Sec. Perdue said “we are telling rural America that we’re here, we’re listening, and we’re going to help provide you with the resources, tools, and support to build robust, sustainable communities for generations to come.” The task force is required to issue a report within 180 days of its formation containing recommendations on legislative and administrative actions.

National Ag Policy: Senate Ag Committee Holds Farm Bill Hearing Focusing on Agricultural Research

On June 16, 2017, the Senate Agriculture Committee held a Farm Bill hearing focused on agricultural research. In the opening statements, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry, said “[n]ow, more than ever, it is critical to invest in public research and support our world class agricultural research institutions that make our farms more productive and sustainable.” The hearing went on to discuss the critical role of agricultural research throughout the years, and the importance of its progress. 

Environmental Credit Trading: Rice Farming Carbon Credits Sold to Microsoft

In June 2015, the California Air Resources Board (ARB) approved a protocol that would allow farmers to offset carbon emissions through their farming methods and get compensated for their efforts by selling credits in the state’s cap-and-trade market. Two years later, on June 14, 2017, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) reported that the first voluntary carbon credits generated by U.S. rice farmers were sold to Microsoft. To read more about California’s rice protocol and conservation efforts, visit the EDF webpage, Greenhouse gas markets for agriculture.

Pennsylvania Legislation

Agriculture and Rural Affairs (House)
  • HB1518: An Act amending the act of April 9, 1929 (P.L.177, No.175), known as The Administrative Code of 1929, in organization of independent administrative boards and commissions, further providing for Agricultural Lands Condemnation Approval Board. (Reported out of Committee, June 20, 2017)
  • HB1550: An Act amending the act of June 30, 1981 (P.L.128, No.43), known as the Agricultural Area Security Law, further providing for purchase of agricultural conservation easements. (Reported out of Committee, June 20, 2017)
  • HB944: An Act amending the act of March 10, 1949 (P.L.30, No.14), known as the Public School Code of 1949, in terms and courses of study, further providing for agricultural education and providing for Commission for Agricultural Education Excellence. (Third consideration and final passage, June 19, 2017)
  • HB1494: An Act amending the act of June 28, 1995 (P.L.89, No.18), known as the Conservation and Natural Resources Act, in Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, renaming the Department of Environmental Resources as the Department of Environmental Protection; defining the role of the Environmental Quality Board in the Department of Environmental Protection; making changes to responsibilities of the State Conservation Commission and the Department of Agriculture; transferring certain powers and duties to the Department of Health; and repealing inconsistent acts," in Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, further providing for contracts and agreements. (Third consideration and final passage, June 19, 2017)

Environmental Resources and Energy (House)
  • HB1333: An Act amending the act of May 31, 1945 (P.L.1198, No.418), known as the Surface Mining Conservation and Reclamation Act, further providing for mining permit, reclamation plan and bond. (Reported out of Committee, June 19, 2017)
  • HB1341: An Act amending the act of July 7, 2008 (P.L.654, No.55), known as the Bituminous Coal Mine Safety Act, in emergency medical personnel, further providing for definitions, for emergency medical personnel, for regulations, for continuing training, for certification and for liability. (Reported out of Committee, June 19, 2017)
  • SB624: An Act amending the act of April 27, 1966 (1st Sp.Sess., P.L.31, No.1), known as The Bituminous Mine Subsidence and Land Conservation Act, providing for planned subsidence and for retroactivity. (Reported out of Committee, June 19, 2017)


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