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:
Labor: House Chairman Announces Bill to Create New Agricultural Guestworker Program
On October 2, 2017, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) announced legislation designed to create a new agricultural guestworker program for American farmers and ranchers. Referred to as the Ag Act, Chairman Goodlatte’s bill would replace the current H-2A guestworker program with a new H-2C guestworker program. According to the Chairman’s summary of the bill, the H-2C guestworker program would better meet producer needs by making available 500,000 visas each year for both seasonal and year-round agricultural work.
Nutrition Labeling: FDA Seeks to Extend Compliance Dates for Nutrition Facts Labeling
On October 2, 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published notice in the Federal Register proposing extensions to the compliance dates for the Nutrition Facts and Supplement Facts label final rule and the Serving Size final rule (82 FR 45753). For manufactures with $10 million or more in annual food sales, the proposed delay would extend the compliance date from July 26, 2018, to January 1, 2020. For manufactures with fewer than $10 million in annual food sales, the proposed delay would extend the compliance date from July 26, 2018 to January 1, 2021.
Clean Water Act: Tyson Pleads Guilty to Violating Clean Water Act
On September 27, 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that Tyson Poultry Inc. (Tyson) has pleaded guilty to criminal charges for violating the Clean Water Act. The DOJ stated that the charges stemmed from the release of the liquid food supplement “Alimet” at the company’s slaughter and processing facility in Monett, Missouri. The DOJ asserted that the Alimet discharge caused the death of approximately 108,000 fish. According to the DOJ, the plea agreement requires Tyson to pay a criminal fine of $2 million and serve two years of probation.
Horse Racing: PDA Addresses Recently Enacted Horse Racing Regulations
On September 26, 2017, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) issued a press release regarding three recently enacted horse racing regulations addressing illegal performance enhancing drugs. According to PDA, the regulations provide for increased penalties for repeat offenders, establish an out-of-competition testing program, and provide for horse ineligibility after a positive test. PDA stated that with the enactment of the three regulations, significant consequences now exist for trainers, veterinarians and owners who choose to violate Pennsylvania’s horse racing laws.
Labor: Ben & Jerry’s Agrees to Improve Dairy Worker Conditions
On October 3, 2017, the New York Times reported that ice cream manufacturer Ben & Jerry’s has agreed to a program establishing labor standards for the Vermont dairy farms that supply the company with milk. Entitled Milk With Dignity, the program mandates that dairy workers receive one day off a week and are paid at least the Vermont state minimum wage of $10. According to the report, compliance with the program will be enforced through independent audits.
GMOs: Study Finds GM Soybean Oil Induces Less Obesity and Insulin Resistance
On October 2, 2017, Science Daily reported that a University of California, Riverside study found that the genetically modified (GM) soybean Plenish® induces less obesity and insulin resistance than conventional soybean oil. Engineered to contain low levels of linoleic acid, Plenish® has a similar composition to olive oil. While the study found less obesity and insulin resistance with Plenish®, the study did find that the GM soybean oil had the same effects on diabetes and fatty liver as those of conventional soybean oil.
Beef: BPI Establishes Fund for Workers Affected by “Pink Slime” Reporting
On September 28, 2017, Meat + Poultry reported that Beef Products Inc. (BPI) has established a $10 million fund to compensate workers that lost their jobs due to plant closures resulting from the negative reporting of BPI’s product Lean Finely Textured Beef. According to the article, in 2012, ABC News published a series of reports that referred to BPI’s Lean Finely Textured Beef product as “pink slime”. Subsequently, in 2012, BPI closed three production facilities and filed a defamation lawsuit against ABC News. In June of 2017, the parties settled for an undisclosed amount. The article stated that the fund will benefit 750 former workers.
Environmental Resources and Energy (House)
- HB 1486 legislation exempting “high tunnels” that meet certain parameters from any requirements under the Storm Water Act (reported out of committee, October 3, 2017)
Environmental Resources and Energy (Senate)
- SB 917 legislation amending the Municipal Waste Planning, Recycling and Waste Reduction Act to expand the definition of “compost materials" to include “mushroom compost” (referred to committee, October 3, 2017)
Pennsylvania Actions and Notices
Department of Environmental Protection
- Nutrient Credit Trading Program
- Nutrient Credit Trading Program
- Pennsylvania Lake Erie Phosphorus Reduction Domestic Action Plan
Public Utility Commission
- Dicamba dilemma pits industry against researchers – Feedstuffs
- Puerto Rico’s Agriculture and Farmers Decimated by Maria – The New York Times
- USDA fails to monitor foreign owners of farmland – Investigate Midwest
- FDA Agrees to Enforce Menu Labeling Rule in May 2018 – Food Safety Magazine
- BPI Establishes $10 Million Fund for Former Employees Following 'Pink Slime' Settlement – Cattle Network
- Agriculture Department, Penn State Researchers Seek Public Input on State Pollinator Protection Plan – PA Department of Agriculture
- Global methane emissions from agriculture larger than reported, according to new estimates – Physics Org
- Campbell Soup Co. commits to higher broiler welfare standards – Meat + Poultry
- Food industry welcomes new deadline to revise nutrition labels – Food Safety
- Congressional Democrats seek 40 Billion for Rural Broadband – Brownfield
- More Details on Syngenta MIR162 Settlement – Ag Professional
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