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:
GMOs: Syngenta Settles with Corn Farmers over Loss of Chinese Market
On September 26, 2017, Syngenta announced that a settlement had been reached with U.S. corn farmers “to resolve litigation concerning the launch of Syngenta’s Agrisure Viptera and Agrisure Duracade corn traits.” The litigation stemmed from allegations that Syngenta had introduced new genetic traits (commercially advertised as Viptera and Duracade) into the U.S. corn market before the genetically modified varieties had been approved by all major export markets. Eventually, the traits were detected in U.S. corn imports to China and resulted in U.S. corn farmers being denied access to the Chinese market. Though Syngenta did not disclose the financial terms of the settlement, Bloomberg News reported that the total amount exceeded $1.4 billion.
Pesticides: EPA Intends to Permit Use of Dicamba in 2018
On September 20, 2017, Reuters reported that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) intends “to allow farmers to spray the controversial weed-killer dicamba next year, but with additional rules for its use.” According to the report, Reuben Baris, the acting chief of the herbicide branch of the EPA Office of Pesticide Programs, recently told state regulators that “the agency had not yet determined what steps it would take to mitigate problems associated with dicamba.” Reuters stated that “[t]he herbicide, which fights weeds resistant to another herbicide called glyphosate, was linked to widespread crop damage this summer.” Accordingly, some farmers have alleged that “the chemical caused damage by drifting away from where it was sprayed to fields of soybeans and other plants that could not tolerate it.”
Labor: Michigan Dairy Pleads Guilty to Hiring Undocumented Immigrants
On September 20, 2017, M Live reported that Michigan dairy farmer Denis Burke has pleaded guilty to federal charges of hiring undocumented immigrants. The report stated that “[b]etween February 2008 and May 2013, [Burke and his wife] hired and harbored more than 100 undocumented immigrants to work on their [two Michigan] farms.” According to the report, under the terms of the guilty plea, Burke faces a prison sentence of between 33 and 41 months and must pay a fine of $187,500.
SNAP: USDA Extends D-SNAP to Floridians Affected by Hurricane Irma
On September 22, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that “Floridians struggling with the after effects of Hurricane Irma could be eligible for help buying food through USDA’s Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP).” According to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, “households who may not normally be eligible under regular SNAP rules may qualify for D-SNAP -- if their income is under the disaster limits and they have qualifying disaster-related expenses.” The announcement stated that “D-SNAP eligible households in the affected areas will receive two months of benefits, equivalent to the maximum amount of benefits normally issued to a SNAP household of their size.”
Antimicrobial: FDA Announces Public Meeting for National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System
On September 21, 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published notice in the Federal Register announcing a public meeting entitled 2017 Scientific Meeting of the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (82 FR 44189). According to the notice, “[t]he purpose of the public meeting is to discuss the current status of the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) and directions for the future.” The announced meeting is scheduled to be held in Washington, DC on October 24 and 25, 2017.
Spotted Lanternfly: PDA Expands Spotted Lanternfly Quarantine
On September 22, 2017, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) announced that the Commonwealth’s Spotted Lanternfly quarantine had been expanded to include 26 municipalities in Berks, Bucks, Chester, Lehigh, Montgomery and Northampton counties. According to PDA, “[t]he quarantine was already in effect in other areas of the six counties.” PDA stated that the Spotted Lanternfly, which can be particularly destructive to the apple, grape and hardwood industries, “had not been found in the United States prior to its initial detection in Berks County in the fall of 2014.”
Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee (Senate)
- Joint public hearing to discuss the Spotted Lanternfly (Hearing Room #1, North Office, October 18, 2017)
Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee (House)
- Public hearing on HB 1463 - legislation which will increase dog license fees and authorize a Statewide online license registry (Room 205, Ryan Office, September 27, 2017)
- Joint informational meeting on Spotted Lanternfly (Hearing Room #1, North Office, October 18, 2017)
Environmental Resources and Energy (House)
- HB 1818 Legislation providing for labeling, signage, and restrictions on sales and use of seeds/plants treated with neonicotinoid pesticides (Referred to committee September 25, 2017)
Pennsylvania Actions and Notices
Department of Agriculture
- Commercial kennel canine health regulations
- Addendum to the order of quarantine; spotted lanternfly
Environmental Hearing Board
- Montgomery Township Friends of Family Farms v. Department of Environmental Protection and Herbruck Poultry Ranch, Inc., permittee; EHB doc. No. 2017-080-R
State Conservation Commission
- Action on odor management plans for concentrated animal operations and concentrated animal feeding operations and volunteers complying with the Commonwealth's Facility Odor Management Program
- Forced to Farm? California Lawsuit Raises Question – Ag Web
- Proposed H-2C Ag Immigration Program to Head to Committee – Ag Web
- Waters of the US: Navigating New Political Currents – Drovers
- Animal welfare activists call for denial of petition to increase slaughter line speeds – Meat + Poultry
- Monsanto’s Weed Killer, Dicamba, Divides Farmers – The New York Times
- Americans Are Devouring Organic Chickens as Sales Rise – Bloomberg
- H2A Visa Use Reaches Record High – Farm Journal’s MILK
- Soda Tax Effort Underway in Portland, Oregon- Bloomberg BNA
- Cook County retailers say beverage sales drop nearly 50% in first month of tax – IEG Policy
- Some Positive Buzz about Honey Bee Numbers – Ag Web
- Organic import controls, oversight under scrutiny – Feed Stuffs
- Global Plan To Streamline 'Use By' Food Labels Aims To Cut Food Waste – NPR
- Finnish food safety authority to publish guidance on insect ingredients – Food Navigator
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