Thursday, June 29, 2017

Agriculture Law Weekly Review – June 29, 2017

Written by Deanna Smith – Research Assistant

COOL: Cattlemen Sue Over Removal of County of Origin Labeling Requirements

On June 19, 2017, Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America, and Cattle Producers of Washington filed a complaint in the U.S District Court for the Eastern District of Washington against USDA. The lawsuit alleges that USDA’s revocation of the Country of Origin Labeling requirement upon imported meat is a violation of the statutory text in the Meat Inspection Act which mandates that all imported meat intended for human consumption be “labeled as required by such regulations for imported articles.” 21 U.S.C. § 620(a). This refers back to the Tariff Act of 1930, which states “every article of foreign origin … shall be marked … in such manner as to indicate to an ultimate purchaser in the United States … the country of origin of the article” 19 U.S.C. § 1304(a). For more information regarding the lawsuit, please see this article in Food Safety News, and for those who have access to PACER, you can view the complaint here.

Local Food: Maine Governor Paul LePage Signs Food Sovereignty Law

On June 16, 2017, Maine Governor Paul LePage signed LB 725, which allows municipalities to regulate local food systems and the “transport of water for commercial purposes beyond … the municipality” through local ordinances. The bill enables Maine municipalities to regulate their own food systems without state licensing and inspection requirements for food grown, sold, and consumed locally. Local municipalities still must adhere to state and federal regulations and the bill does not apply to food grown for distribution outside the municipality. For additional insight into Maine’s new food sovereignty law, see this article in Food Safety News.

Beef Grading: USDA Proposes Additional Standards of Grading for Beef Quality

On June 19, 2017, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) published proposed amendments to the United States Standards for Grades of Carcass Beef. The new standards would require “dentition and documentation of actual age” in order to better classify maturity of carcasses during quality grading. Skeletal and muscular evidence are the only evidence currently used to determine meat palatability which in turn helps dictates the value of beef. This new requirement would enable USDA to look at more aspects of cattle and beef during official quality grading. For further reading on the proposed standard, see this article in Delta Farm Press.

National Ag Policy: The American Heart Association Issues “Presidential Advisory” on Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease

In their June 20, 2017, edition of Circulation, the American Heart Association (AHA) issued a presidential advisory reviewing the scientific evidence on the effects of dietary saturated fat intake on cardiovascular disease (CVD). The advisory included the results of recent studies conducted on the effects dietary saturated fats have on CVD compared to the effects that potential substitutes have on CVD. Overall, AHA recommends lowering the intake of saturated fats by replacing them with unsaturated fats, especially polyunsaturated fats, in order to lower the prevalence of CVD. For more information regarding AHA’s presidential advisory, see this article in Food Safety News.

Antibiotic Use: Sanderson Farms Sued for Natural Label Claim

Organic Consumers Association, Friends of the Earth, and Center for the Food Safety filed a complaint June 22, 2017, against Sanderson Farms, Inc., alleging that the company falsely and misleadingly advertised its chicken products as “100% Natural.” The complaint claims that “residues of antibiotics important for human medicine, residues of veterinary antibiotics, and other pharmaceuticals, as well as residues of hormones, steroids, and pesticides” were found in inspections of Sanderson Farms’ chicken. Sanderson Farms reportedly supplies chicken to companies such as Walmart, Weis, Dairy Queen, and Chili’s. For additional information, including a statement from Sanderson Farms Chief Financial Officer Mike Cockrell, see this article in Meatingplace.

GMOs: Kansas Farmers Awarded Over $217 Million in Syngenta Class Action Suit

On June 23, 2017, a federal jury found in favor of Kansas corn farmers awarding over $217,700,000 to 7,000 farmers. The class action lawsuit was filed in January of 2016 against Syngenta for introducing new genetic traits into the U.S. corn market before the GMO varieties had been approved by all major export markets. The complaint alleged that these traits, commercially advertised as Viptera and Duracade, were then found in imports to China before being approved. This resulted in the inability of U.S. corn farmers to export corn into China. Feedstuffs reported that this class action lawsuit was one of eight brought by corn farmers throughout the U.S. and the first one to go to trial. At the conclusion of the trial, a Syngenta spokesperson announced, “[t]he case is without merit, and we will move forward with an appeal and continue to defend the rights of American farmers to access safe and effective, U.S-approved technologies.”

International: European Court of Justices Upholds Dairy Labeling Standards

On June 14, 2017, the European Court of Justice ruled that plant-based dairy alternatives cannot be labeled with terms such as “milk,” “cream,” “butter”, “cheese,” or “yogurt.” This ruling comes in response to Verband Sozialer Wettbewerb (VSW) filing a lawsuit against TofuTown, a German vegetarian and vegan food producer with products such as “Soyatoo Tofu butter,” and “Plant cheese.” The lawsuit alleged that the use of such terms violated Article 78 of Regulation No 1308/2013 of the European Union titled “Definitions, designations and sales descriptions for certain sectors and products.” This decision has been lauded by the National Milk Producers Federation as can be seen in their June 23 press release. For more information about this court decision, please see the following article in Just-Food.

WOTUS: EPA and Army Corps of Engineers Propose Rescission of Clean Water Rule

In a press release issued on Tuesday, June 27, 2017, the U.S. Army and EPA announced a proposal to withdraw the Clean Water Rule and to “re-codify the regulatory text that existed prior to 2015 defining ‘waters of the United States.’” The proposed rule would codify the identical regulatory text that was in place prior to the 2015 Clean Water Rule, effectively negating the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit’s decision to stay the 2015 rule. Following this action, the agencies intend to conduct an extensive re-evaluation of the definition of waters of the U.S. in accordance with President Trump’s Presidential Executive Order on “Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the ‘Waters of the United States’ Rule.” For more information, please see the pre-publication version of the proposed rule.

Pennsylvania Legislation

Agriculture and Rural Affairs (Senate)
  •      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. (Referred to AGRICULTURE AND RURAL AFFAIRS, June 23, 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, further providing for contracts and agreements.( Referred to AGRICULTURE AND RURAL AFFAIRS, June 23, 2017)

Environmental Resources and Energy (House)
  •      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. (Final passage, June 26, 2017)
  •      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. (Final passage, June 26, 2017)
  •      SB639: An Act amending the act of March 1, 1988 (P.L.82, No.16), known as the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority Act, further providing for definitions; and providing for additional use of funds for financial assistance. (Referred to ENVIRONMENTAL RESOURCES AND ENERGY, June 27, 2017)
  •      HB1624: An Act amending the act of March 4, 1971 (P.L.6, No.2), known as the Tax Reform Code of 1971, providing for education reinvestment severance tax, for minimum royalty for unconventional oil or gas well products and for remedy for failure to pay the minimum royalty on unconventional oil or gas wells; and making a related repeal. (Referred to ENVIRONMENTAL RESOURCES AND ENERGY, June 26, 2017)


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