Thursday, February 22, 2018

Agricultural Law Weekly Review—February 22, 2018

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:

Pesticides: EPA Penalizes Amazon over $1.2M for Online Sale of Illegal Pesticides
On February 15, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a settlement with Amazon Services LLC regarding the online sales of unregistered and misbranded pesticide products.  According to EPA, from 2013-2016, Amazon sold and distributed imported pesticide products that were not licensed for sale in the U.S.  EPA alleged that these illegal actions resulted in nearly four thousand violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.  Under the terms of the settlement, Amazon will be required to: (1) pay EPA a penalty of $1,215,700 and (2) develop an online pesticide training course for Amazon retailers.  According to EPA, completion of the online training course will be required by all entities prior to selling pesticide products on

Pesticides: Judge Rejects Monsanto Action to Stop Arkansas Dicamba Ban
On February 16, 2018, Reuters reported that an Arkansas judge rejected a Monsanto Co. lawsuit seeking to overturn the state’s dicamba spraying restrictions.  On January 19, 2018, the Arkansas Agricultural Department announced regulations prohibiting the use of the herbicide dicamba from April 16 through October 31.  As a result of this action, Monsanto brought suit alleging that “[t]he Arkansas ban hurts Monsanto’s ability to sell dicamba-tolerant seed in the state and has caused ‘irreparable harm’ to the company.” According to the report, in dismissing Monsanto’s legal challenge, “Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Chris Piazza cited a recent Arkansas Supreme Court decision that the state cannot be made a defendant in court.”

Food and Nutrition: USDA Extends Comment Period on Food Crediting in Child Nutrition Programs
On February 20, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) published notice in the Federal Register extending the comment period regarding USDA-FNS’ crediting system and the Child Nutrition Programs (83 FR 7139).  According to USDA-FNS, the Child Nutrition Programs (which include: National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and Summer Food Service Program) are critical in providing many children with nutritious food.  Additionally, FNS stated that crediting is the process used by the agency “to determine how individual foods contribute to the Child Nutrition Programs' meal patterns.” USDA-FNS asserted that the extended comment period is intended to help the agency structure a crediting system that better: (1) addresses the current food and nutrition environment, (2) gives children access to the nutrition they need, and (3) provides customer service. Accordingly, USDA-FNS has scheduled the comment period to close on April 23, 2018.

Agricultural Data: Syngenta Acquires Satellite Imagery Company
On February 14, 2018, Syngenta announced the acquisition of the satellite imagery company FarmShots, Inc.  According to Syngenta, FarmShots has been a leader in developing high-resolution technology that can allow for the detection of plant health through “analyzing absorbed light from field images.” Syngenta asserted that this technology permits “growers and their trusted advisers to reduce field scouting by as much as 90 percent and helps them focus on areas of need.” Additionally, Syngenta stated that the FarmShots system, will allow growers to access their secure, optimized data through mobile devices such as tablets, laptops and smart phones.

Biosecurity: Deer from Pennsylvania Farm Tests Positive for Chronic Wasting Disease in Wisconsin
On February 15, 2018, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) announced that a deer originating from a Pennsylvania breeding farm has tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease in Wisconsin.  The deer in question was harvested on a Wisconsin hunting preserve in the fall of 2017.  Subsequently, DNA testing was used to confirm that the deer was born on a breeding farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  The breeding farm is currently under quarantine as PDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture work to establish a Herd Management Plan designed to limit the spread of the disease.   

Industrial Hemp / Cannabis: Pennsylvania Approves 39 Industrial Hemp Research Applications
On February 15, 2018, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) announced the approval of 39 industrial hemp research applications.  According to PDA, if all 39 applicants complete the permitting process, nearly 1,000 acres statewide will be utilized for hemp production in 2018.  In contrast, in 2017, hemp production in the Commonwealth was limited to 14 growers on 36 acres statewide.  The 39 approved industrial hemp applicants come from the following Pennsylvania counties: Adams, Bedford, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Clearfield, Columbia, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lehigh, Luzerne, Lycoming, Mifflin, Monroe, Montgomery, Montour, Perry, Somerset, Washington, Westmoreland, and Wyoming.

Farmland Preservation: Pennsylvania Farmland Preservation Program Passes $1 Billion Mark
On February 15, 2018, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture announced that the Agricultural Land Preservation Board has approved $37 million in farmland preservation funding for 2018.  With the announced funding, Pennsylvania’s financial commitment to farmland preservation exceeds $1 billion since the Pennsylvania Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Program was developed in 1988.  Accordingly, since 1988, these farmland preservation funds have been used to purchase permanent easements on 5,270 Pennsylvania farms totaling 546,963 acres.

Pennsylvania Actions and Notices:
Department of Agriculture

Department of Transportation

Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission

Susquehanna River Basin Commission

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