Thursday, October 19, 2017

Agricultural Law Weekly Review—October 19, 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:

GIPSA: USDA Withdraws Proposed GIPSA Rule
On October 18, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published notice in the Federal Register that the agency was withdrawing the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rule proposed on December 20, 2016 (82 FR 48603).  According to the USDA, the proposed rule was intended to clarify unfair, unjust, or deceptive practices and to determine when such practices resulted in unfair advantages for packers, swine contractors, or live poultry dealers.  The USDA stated that as a result of withdrawing the proposed rule, the agency will continue the approach of determining “unfair and deceptive practices on a case-by-case basis.”

Immigration: DOJ and DOS Announce Partnership to Fight Visa Fraud
On October 11, 2017, the U.S. Departments of Justice (DOJ) and State (DOS) announced a formal partnership between the two agencies for the purpose of fighting employer visa fraud.  According to the announcement, the agreement provides for the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division and the DOS’s Bureau of Consular Affairs to share information on employers who may be “engaging in unlawful discrimination, committing fraud, or making other misrepresentations in their use of employment-based visas, such as H-1B, H-2A, and H-2B visas.” According to the DOJ, the goal of the partnership is to hold accountable those employers that discriminate against U.S. workers through the favoring of foreign visa workers.  

Pesticides: EPA Announces Label Changes for Dicamba Use
On October 13, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that the agency has reached a voluntary agreement with Monsanto, BASF and DuPont to provide new label requirements for dicamba application to growing plants.  Known as "over the top" use, under the new requirements, labels will state: (1) application is permitted only by certified applicators, (2) farmers must maintain specific records, (3) application is limited wind speeds below 10 mph, (4) application is limited to certain times during the day, (5) tank clean-out language, and (6) language regarding enhanced susceptible crops and record keeping with sensitive crop registries.  The EPA stated that the manufacturers have agreed to have the new labeling ready for use in the 2018 season.

Chesapeake Bay: Pennsylvania Announces Hundreds of Farmers to Receive Reimbursement for Clean Water Plans
On October 13, 2017, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced plans to reimburse a minimum of 800 Pennsylvania farmers for the cost of preparing agricultural plans for clean water.  According to the DEP, in an effort to help the Commonwealth meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s water pollution mandated targets for the Chesapeake Bay, state law requires that farmers implement one of the following: (1) a manure management plan, (2) a nutrient management plan, or (3) an agriculture erosion and sediment control plan.  Additionally, in certain circumstances, a farmer may be required to implement more than one of these plans.  Costs to prepare the various plans can range from $500 to $1,500 depending on the size of the farm.  The DEP asserted that while a minimum of 800 plans will be reimbursed, the department could potentially cover the costs of 2,200 plans.  The DEP stated that farmers are eligible for reimbursed for plans developed after January 1, 2017.

Soda Tax: Cook County Illinois Repeals Soda Tax
On October 11, 2017, the Chicago Sun Times reported that the Cook County Board of Commissioners voted 15-2 to repeal the county’s 1 cent an ounce tax on sweetened beverages.  Passed in November 2016, the sweetened beverage tax went into effect August 2, 2017.  According to the article, the elimination of the sweetened beverage tax will result in anticipated $200 million budget short-fall for the county, which includes the city of Chicago.

Pennsylvania Legislation
Pennsylvania Senate
  • HB 790  Controlled Plant and Noxious Weed Act (amended on third consideration by Senate, October 17, 2018)

Environmental Resources and Energy (S)
  • SB 799 Legislation to create a program for Pennsylvania municipalities and municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s) to meet their taxpayer funded Chesapeake Bay nutrient reduction mandates (reported for first consideration by Senate, October 17, 2017)

Agriculture and Rural Affairs (H) and Agriculture and Rural Affairs (S)
  • Joint informational meeting on Spotted Lanternfly (October 18, 2017)

Pennsylvania Actions and Notices
State Horse Racing Commission

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