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:
Right to Farm Laws: Court Reduces Jury Award in Hog Nuisance Case
On May 7, 2018, a U.S. district court reduced a jury award against pork producer Murphy-Brown from $50,750,000 to $3,250,000 (McKiver v Murphy-Brown LLC, No. 7:14-CV-180-BR). The case involved nuisance complaints from ten neighbors that lived near a swine farm in eastern North Carolina regarding odors that emanated from the operation. On April 26, 2018, the jury awarded each of the ten neighbors $75,000 in compensatory damages and $5,000,000 in punitive damages. Subsequently, the court applied North Carolina law which states: “[p]unitive damages awarded against a defendant shall not exceed three times the amount of compensatory damages or two hundred fifty thousand dollars ($250,000), whichever is greater” (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1D-25(b)). As a result, the court reduced the jury’s punitive damage award for each of the ten neighbors from $5,000,000 to $250,000.
Food Policy: FDA Extends Nutrition Labeling Compliance Date
On May 4, 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published notice in the Federal Register that the compliance date for updating nutritional information on food labels has been extended by approximately 1.5 years (83 FR 19619) According to the agency, the extension is being issued to allow affect manufactures the ability to: 1) receive FDA guidance and 2) to have sufficient time to comply with the new rules. As a result of FDA’s action, the compliance date for updating nutritional information on food labels has been extended from July 26, 2019, to January 1, 2021.
Industrial Hemp/Cannabis: Court Upholds CBD Status as a Controlled Substance
On May 3, 2018 the Associated Press reported that the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) determination that cannabidiol (CBD) is a Schedule 1 controlled substance. As a result, CBD, a substance derived from the cannabis plant, is considered an illegal substance. Currently, CBD products, including those derived from low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) hemp, may only be sold when specifically permitted under state law. With the court’s ruling, however, states that do allow CBD sales are considered to be in violation of federal law.
Menu Labeling: FDA Releases Menu Labeling Guidance
On May 8, 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published notice in the Federal Register of the availability of guidance material entitled “Menu Labeling: Supplemental Guidance for Industry” (83 FR 20731). The resource is an attempt by FDA to assist food establishments affected by regulations requiring nutritional labeling on menus. Accordingly, the guidance material: 1) provides labeling examples, 2) addresses caloric disclosure signage, and 3) provides methods for providing calorie disclosure information.
Food Labeling: USDA Seeks Comment on National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard
On May 4, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) published notice in the Federal Register of a proposed rule to establish the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard (83 FR 19860). The proposed rule would require entities that label foods for retail to disclose information regarding bioengineered foods and bioengineered food ingredients. Comments on the proposed rule must be received by July 3, 2018.
From National Ag Law Experts:
- Bennet, Chris “Checkoff War May Impact Entire Agriculture Industry”, Drovers, April 17, 2018 (quoting Harrison Pittman, Director of the National Agricultural Law Center)
- Pittman, Harrison “Beef Checkoff Dollars & USDA ‘Redirection’: Compatible with Federal Law?”, The National Agricultural Law Center, September 1, 2017
- Pittman, Harrison “Soybean Checkoff Dollars & USDA ‘Redirection’: Compatible with Federal Law?”, The National Agricultural Law Center, August 21, 2017
- Pittman, Harrison “Beef, Beans, & the First Amendment Disappearing Sovereignty for State Beef Councils and Soybean Boards?”, The National Agricultural Law Center, February 9, 2017
Pennsylvania Case Law:
R. v. Gongaware, S., PA Superior Court, No. 152 WDA 2017
(finding error in trial court determination that reserved interest in timber
was forfeited when timber was not removed in reasonable amount of time)
Pennsylvania Actions and Notices:
Department of Agriculture
Milk Marketing Board
- Contract Poultry Farmers’ Bill of Rights – Tyson
- Farm Bureau Develops Dairy Revenue Protection Insurance – Farm Bureau
- Pa.'s equine population ranked 6th in U.S. – Morning Ag Clips
- Animal welfare groups push forward on California cage-free law – Feedstuffs
- Why farmers only get 7.8 cents of every dollar Americans spend on food – The Denver Post
- Scientists in China Race to Edit Crop Genes, Sowing Unease in U.S. – The Wall Street Journal
- N.C. agency reaches settlement agreement on regulatory oversight for hog farm permitting – National Hog Farmer
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