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:
Checkoff Programs: Court Rules Beef Checkoff May Conflict with First Amendment
On April 9, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that a lower court “did not abuse its discretion” when it determined that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's beef checkoff program likely violated the First Amendment rights of the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA) (R-CALF USA v Perdue, No. 17-35669, D.C. No. 4:16-cv-00041-BMM). As a result, the court upheld a preliminary injunction preventing the Montana Beef Council from using beef checkoff funds collected from Montana ranchers without the ranchers’ consent.
Biosecurity: USDA Proposes Changes to National Poultry Improvement Plan and Auxiliary Provisions
On April 9, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) published notice of a proposed rule amending regulations regarding the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) (83 FR 15082). According to APHIS, the purpose of NPIP is to prevent and control poultry diseases through a variety of voluntary programs. To further this purpose, the proposed rule would provide updates and clarification to several program provisions including “those concerning NPIP participation, voting requirements, testing procedures, and standards.” Comments on the proposed rule must be submitted by May 9, 2018.
Organic Agriculture: USDA Reopens Comment Period for Proposed Changes to the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances
On April 13, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agriculture Marketing Service published notice that the agency is reopening the comment period for proposed changes to the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (83 FR 16010). Under the proposed rule, the agency would: (1) alter use restrictions for seventeen substances currently allowed for organic production or handling on the National List; (2) add sixteen new substances on the National List to be allowed in organic production or handling; and (3) remove ivermectin as an allowed parasiticide for use in organic livestock production. Initially, the comment period on the proposed changes closed on March 19, 2018. The new comment period, which is intended to provide more time to develop comments on the proposed rule, is scheduled to close May 14, 2018.
Food Safety: E. coli Outbreak Linked to Chopped Romaine Lettuce
On April 13, 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that chopped romaine lettuce sourced in Yuma, Arizona may be the cause of a multistate outbreak of E. coli O157:H7. According to CDC, while 35 people in 11 states have become ill from chopped romaine, no illnesses have been reported from consumption of whole heads or hearts of romaine. Traceback investigations are currently being conducted to determine the source of the contamination.
International Trade: U.S. Pork Permitted into Argentina
On April 13, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) announced that requirements have been finalized to allow U.S. pork to enter Argentina for the first time since 1992. The announcement follows terms originally negotiated between the White House and Argentina in August 2017. As a result of the finalization of the technical requirements, U.S. exports of pork to Argentina may once again resume. USDA and USTR anticipate that the reopening of Argentina will result in an additional $10-million annual market for U.S. pork producers.
Farmland Preservation: Pennsylvania Adds 27 Farms to Farmland Preservation Program
On April 16, 2018, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) announced that an additional 27 farms, totaling 2,793 acres, have been preserved under the Commonwealth’s Farmland Preservation Program. The farms are located in the following counties: Berks, Bucks, Centre, Chester, Erie, Juniata, Lancaster, Lawrence, Lebanon, Lehigh, Luzerne, Mercer, Northampton, Susquehanna, and York. According to PDA, with the addition of the 27 recently preserved farms, Pennsylvania’s Farmland Preservation Program has purchased permanent easements on 5,297 farms totaling 549,728 acres.
National Ag Law Experts:
- FOOD SAFETY REGULATIONS & GUIDANCE FOR FOOD DONATIONS: A Fifty-State Survey of State Practices, Emily Broad Leib, Alyssa Chan, April Hua, Annika Nielsen, and Katie Sandson, Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic
- Corn Farmers May Begin Filing Claims in Syngenta Settlement Next Month, Kristine A. Tidgren, Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation
Pennsylvania Case Law:
- Hoover, L. v. Smith, C. No. 1452 WDA 2017 (court dismisses complaint regarding prescriptive easement due to failure to preserve claim)
Agricultural and Rural Affairs (S)
- HB 2034 Legislation to include the chemical element molybdenum in the labeling requirements for agricultural liming materials (referred to committee April 11, 2018)
Pennsylvania Actions and Notices:
Department of Environmental Protection
- Senate fast-tracks bill legalizing hemp as agriculture product – The Hill
- Pa. launches Community Clean Water Toolbox – Morning Ag Clips
- Big Data Plan For USDA Conservation Programs – Ag Web
- NCBA, USCA talk fake meat labeling – Tri-State Livestock News
- Is This Tomato Engineered? Inside the Coming Battle Over Gene-Edited Food – The Wall Street Journal
- 200 million eggs recalled after nearly two dozen were sickened with salmonella, officials say – The Washington Post
- As dairy crisis crushes farmers, Wisconsin's rural identity in jeopardy – Journal Sentinel
- Pennsylvania going hog wild with new pork production operations – American Agriculturalist
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