Thursday, July 27, 2017

Agriculture Law Weekly Review – July 27, 2017

Written by Joseph Mooradian and Deanna Smith – Research Assistants

Agricultural Labor: House Appropriations Approves Amendment Expanding H-2A Access

On July 18, 2017, the House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment which would permit H-2A workers to work for more types of agricultural businesses than previously allowed. The language of the amendment states that H-2A workers can, “perform agricultural labor services, without regard to whether such labor is, or services are, of a temporary or seasonal nature.” The amendment would not change how long workers will remain in the country, but provide them the potential to work for other types of businesses, “such as dairies and agriculture operations with multiple crops and harvests.”

Pesticides: Class Action Lawsuit Claims Monsanto Encouraged Farmers to Use Illegal Pesticides

On July 19, 2017, a class action lawsuit was brought against Monsanto alleging crop damage due to dicamba drift. The complaint contended that Monsanto released its pesticide to farmers with compatible crops before these products were approved by the EPA while publicly telling all farmers that they should not use the pesticide. In spite of its public actions, however, the complaint stated that Monsanto was covertly telling farmers the opposite, and that using the unapproved pesticide would be “be just fine.” According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Monsanto stated in a response that they, “remain confident in growers’ ability to follow all application requirements and abide by the law.”

Water Law: EPA Sued Over Approval of Ohio’s Lake Erie Plan

On July 18, 2017, the Environmental Law & Policy Center issued a press release describing the complaint the organization filed against the EPA. The press release stated that, “the open waters of Lake Erie should be designated impaired under the Clean Water Act because harmful algal blooms that form there most years are preventing those waters from meeting basic state water quality standards.” According to the press release, the EPA approved the state’s Ohio EPA’s recognition that, “algal bloom problems are impairing Lake Erie’s shoreline and areas which are used as a source of public drinking water.” The press release asserted that this determination does not go far enough, and that, “the agency refused to address the algal blooms’ effects on the full extent of the lake’s waters even though it’s a single water body.” The press release stated that, “[t]he algal blooms are caused by phosphorus pollution that primarily comes from manure and fertilizer running off of agricultural land.”

Food Safety: Contaminated Feed Behind European BSE Cases

On July 13, 2017, the European Food Safety Authority journal published a scientific opinion alleging that the most likely source of isolated cases of BSE is contaminated feed. According to the opinion, BSE is a difficult disease to source, “due to a time span of several years between the potential exposure of the animal and the confirmation of disease, recall difficulty, and the general paucity of documented objective evidence available in the farms at the time of the investigation.” The publication, however, stated that contaminated feed is the most likely source of the infection, “when compared with other biologically plausible sources of infection (maternal, environmental, genetic, iatrogenic).”

GMO Labeling: USDA Extends Comment Period, Lists Labeling as “Inactive” in Latest Unified Agenda

On July 20, 2017, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) extended the request for comment period on the. Bioengineered Food Disclosure Rule from July 17 to August 25. The AMS stated that their purpose for doing so was, “to allow more time for stakeholders to provide feedback on the range of topics covered by the 30 questions.” On the same day, the rule was shifted to the “inactive actions” list under the latest Unified Agenda, the first for the Trump Administration.

Pennsylvania Legislation
Agriculture and Rural Affairs
  • 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. (Approved by the Governor, July 20, 2017 – Act No. 25)
  • HB1671: An Act amending Title 3 (Agriculture) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in weights and measures, further providing for definitions, for office and working standards and equipment, for specific powers and duties of department and regulations, for testing and inspections of standards, for general testing and inspections, for registration and report of inspection and testing of weighing and measuring devices used for commercial purposes, for police powers, right of entry and stoppage, for powers and duties of director and inspector, for city and county sealers and deputy sealers of weights and measures, appointment and powers and duties, for method of sale of commodities, for butter, oleomargarine and margarine, for fluid dairy products, for flour, cornmeal and hominy grits, for licenses, for weighmasters' certificates, for preparation of weighmaster's certificate, for scale requirement, for disposition of copies of certificates, for suspension of revocation of licenses, for sales by weight, for meter required, for investigations and for disposition of funds, providing for interim procedures and establishing the Weights and Measures Restricted Account. (Referred to Agricultural and Rural Affairs July 21, 2017 [House])

Environmental Resources and Energy
  • 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. (Approved by the Governor, July 20, 2017 – Act No. 26)
  • 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. (Became Law without Governor's signature, July 22, 2017, Act No. 32)


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