Thursday, September 7, 2017

Agricultural Law Weekly Review—September 7, 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:

FSMA: FDA Issues Produce Safety Rule Compliance Guide for Small Entities
On September 5, 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the release of guidance material designed to help small businesses comply with the Food Safety and Modernization Act’s (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule.  According to the FDA, the guidance material is specifically intended to assist small and very small “farmers determine whether they are eligible for a qualified exemption, which would modify the requirements they are subject to under the Produce Safety Rule.” Additionally, the FDA stated that the guidance material “can also help [small and very small farmers] understand those modified requirements.”

WIC: USDA Eases WIC Restrictions to Assist Hurricane Harvey Victims
On September 4, 2017, The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a temporary easing of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) rules in order to help hurricane-stricken program participants in Texas.  According to the USDA, “[u]nder normal circumstances, [WIC participants] can use their food benefits at authorized retailers to purchase only specific WIC food items.”  According to the USDA, through September 24, 2017, program participants in Texas will be allowed to purchase certain WIC products based on what is available on store shelves.

Animal Welfare: Virginia Announce Convictions in Animal Cruelty Cases
On August 29, 2017, Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring announced that his Animal Law Unit team had recently secured seven convictions in animal cruelty cases brought within the state.  According to Attorney General Herring, "[t]hese convictions send a clear, strong signal across the Commonwealth that my team and I take these crimes seriously, and that those who commit cruelty to animals will be held accountable for their actions." According to the announcement, “Attorney General Herring established a first of its kind Animal Law Unit in January 2015…[which] has been recognized by the Norfolk SPCA and the Animal Legal Defense Fund for its groundbreaking trainings, complex investigations, and prosecutions of animal cruelty.” 

Mergers and Acquisitions: Dow DuPont Merger Completed
On September 1, 2017, DowDuPont™ announced “the successful completion of the merger of equals between The Dow Chemical Company (“Dow”) and E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company (“DuPont”), effective Aug. 31, 2017.”  The announcement stated that “[t]he combined entity is operating as a holding company under the name “DowDuPont™” with three divisions – Agriculture, Materials Science and Specialty Products.” According to the announcement, “[o]nce each division has its own processes, people, assets, systems and licenses in place to operate independently from the parent company, DowDuPont intends to separate the divisions to stand within their own legal entities.” This intended separation is expected to occur within 18 months.

Dairy Programs: Margin Protection Program Enrollment Opens; Producers Permitted to Opt-Out
On August 31, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced “that starting Sept. 1, 2017, dairy producers can enroll for 2018 coverage in the Margin Protection Program (MPP-Dairy).”  According to FSA, the MPP-Dairy “offers dairy producers: (1) catastrophic coverage, at no cost to the producer, other than an annual $100 administrative fee; and (2) various levels of buy-up coverage.” Importantly, FSA stated that “Secretary Sonny Perdue has utilized additional flexibility this year by providing dairy producers the option of opting out of the program for 2018.” According to Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Rob Johansson, the decision to allow producers the ability to opt-out of the MPP-Dairy program “is in response to requests by the dairy industry and a number of MPP-Dairy program participants.”

Chesapeake Bay: Study Examines Effect of Pennsylvania’s “Manure Hot Spots” on the Chesapeake Bay
On August 31, 2017, the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) released a report entitled: Unsustainable Agriculture—Pennsylvania’s Manure Hot Spots and their Impact on Local Water Quality and the Chesapeake Bay.  According to the report, “EIP looked closely at four counties where the per-acre application of nitrogen and phosphorus is the highest – Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon, and Union Counties.” EIP stated that the “report examines input data and model estimates from the Chesapeake Bay Program’s revised Bay Model, and compared these four counties to the rest of the Commonwealth.”

Pennsylvania Legislation
Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee (House)
  • HB 1750: Legislation amending Title 3 (Agriculture) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes to allow customers to bring pet dogs to outdoor dining areas of retail food facilities (Referred to Committee Aug. 30, 2017)

Pennsylvania Actions and Notices
Department of Agriculture

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