Thursday, March 15, 2018

Agricultural Law Weekly Review—March 15, 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:

Organic Agriculture: USDA Withdraws Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule
On March 13, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published notice in the Federal Register that the agency was withdrawing the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) final rule published on January 19, 2017 (83 FR 10775).  The OLPP final rule, which was scheduled to become effective on May 14, 2018, addressed issues regarding: (1) livestock handling and transport for slaughter; (2) avian living conditions; (3) livestock care and production practices; and (4) mammalian living conditions.  USDA asserted that the rule was being withdrawn due to “significant policy and legal issues” which the agency subsequently identified after the rule was published on January 19, 2017.

Right to Farm Laws: Georgia Court Rules Paper Mill Protected Under State Right to Farm Law
On March 8, 2018, the Court of Appeals of Georgia determined that the state’s right to farm law exempted a recycled paper mill from nuisance liability (Georgia Pacific Consumer Products v. Ratner, et al.; and vice versa, A17A1969, A17A1970).  According to the court, beginning when the mill opened in 1986, operators routinely applied a “sludge” byproduct from the recycled paper making process to approximately 130 acres of mill property.  Subsequently, residents from neighboring properties brought a nuisance action against the mill regarding the sludge application.  The court held that the mill was protected from nuisance liability under Georgia’s right to farm law (OCGA § 41-1-7).  According to the court, “a ‘forest products processing plant’ squarely aligns with the purpose of the ‘right to farm’ statute…because encouraging recycling conserves forest land and enables continued development of additional markets for distributing products made from wood fibers.”

Transportation: PennDOT Announces Food and Dairy Hauler Exemption
On March 8, 2018, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) announced an exemption for food and dairy haulers following the department’s recently issued commercial hauler transportation bans.  The bans were the result of Governor Tom Wolf’s emergency declaration after winter storms affected Pennsylvania’s eastern interstates.  Under the exemption, driving times for food and dairy haulers are extended “from 11 hours to 14 hours, followed by 10 consecutive hours off-duty before again driving.” Food and dairy haulers are also exempted from the “60/70-hour” rule “which requires drivers to stop driving upon accumulating 60 or 70 on-duty hours (including all on-duty and driving time) over a period of seven or eight consecutive days.” The announced PennDOT exemption will be valid until 11:59 p.m. on Monday, March 21.   

Dairy Policy: New Pennsylvania Dairy Study 2017 Resources Available
On March 13, 2018, the Center for Dairy Excellence posted new resources relating to the Pennsylvania Dairy Study 2017.  Designed to help guide the future of Pennsylvania’s dairy industry, the Pennsylvania Dairy Study 2017 is a year-long study that seeks to “evaluate opportunities and inhibitors to grow Pennsylvania’s dairy industry.” Commissioned by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and the Center for Dairy Excellence, study leaders are currently seeking stakeholder feedback on the following posted material: 1) Phase I Findings, 2) Farm Financial Analysis, 3) Dairy Export Potential to PhilaPort System, 4) Analysis of the Impacts of the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board on Fluid Milk Retail Prices and Processing Volumes, and 5) Economic Multiplier Impacts.

Food Safety: GAO Issues Report on FDA Food Safety and Nutrition Objectives
On March 5, 2018, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report entitled: Food Safety and Nutrition: FDA Can Build on Existing Efforts to Measure Progress and Implement Key Activities.  Recently, GAO was asked to review The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) food safety- and nutrition-related activities and resources.  Accordingly, GAO arrived at three recommendations. First, FDA should develop a uniform basis for issuing regulations and guidance for all food safety- and nutrition-related objectives. Second, FDA should develop performance measures with targets and time frames. Third, FDA should create an implementation plan that includes specific actions, priorities, and milestones for the agency’s Foods and Veterinary Medicine Program's strategic plan.

National Ag Law Experts:

Pennsylvania Legislation:
Environmental Resources and Energy (H)
  • HB 2132 Legislation to transition Pennsylvania to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 (Referred to committee March 9, 2018) 

Pennsylvania Actions and Notices:
Department of Environmental Protection

Department of Transportation

Milk Marketing Board

AgLaw HotLinks:

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