Thursday, July 13, 2017

Agriculture Law Weekly Review – July 13, 2017

Written by research assistant Deanna Smith

Biofuels: EPA Proposes Cuts to Biofuel Requirements

On July 5, 2017, the EPA released their proposal for 2018 biofuel requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). This proposed rule would lower the volume requirements for cellulosic biofuel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel to less than the 2017 requirements. Under the RFS, the EPA is required to increase volumes of renewable fuels each year. However, the new rule relies on a statutory waiver authority allowing for decreased volumes when projected cellulosic biofuel volumes are less than the applicable volume specified in the statute. The current proposal provided for a 20% decrease from the original 2007 projections for 2018. For more information on the proposal, please see this Reuters article.

Ag-Gag: Utah’s ‘Ag-Gag’ Law Declared Unconstitutional

On July 7, 2017, Utah Code §76-6-112, better known as the state’s ‘ag-gag’ law, was struck down in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, Central Division. In the opinion, U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby declared the ‘ag-gag’ statute violated first amendment rights to free speech. The challenge to the statute was brought by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and Amy Meyer, the director of the Utah Animal Rights Coalition. This is the second ruling by a federal court declaring an ‘ag-gag’ statute to be unconstitutional with Idaho’s state statute being invalidated in Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Wasden. That 2015 Idaho decision is on appeal and pending in the Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. For more information, please see this article in National Public Radio.

Air Quality: U.S. Court of Appeals Denies CAFO Rehearing  

On July 3, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit declined to reconsider its decision that ruled Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) are no longer exempted from reporting their air emissions. In 2008, the CERCLA/EPCRA Administrative Reporting Exemption for Air Releases of Hazardous Substances From Animal Waste at Farms excused farms of all sizes from submitting emergency release reports to federal authorities under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), and exempted most farms from reporting requirements under Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). The challenge to this exemption was brought by environmental groups Waterkeeper Alliance, the Environmental Integrity Project, Sierra Club, Center for Food Safety, and Humane Society of the United States. Dave Warner with the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) told Brownfield that the refusal to reconsider this ruling would result in “hundreds of thousands of reports from agricultural farms” that none of the parties involved can handle. For further reading on this issue, please see this Greenwire article.

Local Regulation: Judge Declares Local Health Department Not Allowed to Regulate Hog Farm

On July 6, 2017, News Press Now reported that Circuit Judge Randall Jackson in northwest Missouri issued an order stating the Andrew County Health Department cannot regulate a large hog farming operation. A local ordinance passed by the Andrew Country Health Department in 2010 enabled them to regulate concentrated animal farming operations (CAFO). Judge Jackson dismissed the lawsuit against the hog farmers and ruled that Missouri statutes do not authorize local health departments to pass regulations on CAFOs; only county commissions have that authority. A local source reports that the final judgment will be issued before July 17, 2017.

GMOs: USDA Progresses on GMO Labeling Rule

The National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, enacted in 2016, charged the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) with developing a system for disclosing the presence of bioengineered material within two years. Last month, the USDA called for responses to thirty questions regarding what information about GMOs the public want to be disclosed on labels. This feedback period will end on July 17, 2017, and the input will be used to draft a proposed rule. In addition to the feedback, Natural Product Insider reports the USDA is also on track to receive the Deloitte Consulting study on GMO labeling feasibility by the statutory deadline of July 28, 2017. National Product Insider also reports that USDA’s Public Affairs Specialist Peter Woods indicated that USDA could have a proposed rule published before the end of 2017.

Pennsylvania Legislation

Agriculture and Rural Affairs (Senate)
  • 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. (Presented to the Governor, July 10, 2017)

Environmental Resources and Energy (House)
  • 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. (Presented to the Governor, July 11, 2017)
  • SB144: An Act amending the act of January 24, 1966 (1965 P.L.1535, No.537), known as the Pennsylvania Sewage Facilities Act, further providing for official plans. (Presented to the Governor, July 11, 2017)


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