Thursday, May 17, 2018

Agricultural Law Weekly Review—May 17, 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:

Checkoff Programs: USDA Terminates Proposed Organic Checkoff Program
On May 14, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published notice in the Federal Register that the department was terminating a proposed rule that would have established a certified organic products checkoff program (83 FR 22213).  Under the proposed rule, a federal program would have been developed for the national research and promotion of certified organic products.  Program funding was to have been made possible through an assessment, or “checkoff”, levied on certified organic products.  According to USDA, during the rule making process, stakeholder comments revealed a split within the organic industry regarding the proposed program.  USDA stated that because industry support for the program was uncertain, and because of issues regarding “the assessment of non-food products and products ‘made with (specified ingredients)’”, the agency elected to terminate the rule making proceedings.

FSMA: FDA Issues FSMA Small Entity Compliance Guide
On May 14, 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published notice in the Federal Register of the availability of a guidance document entitled: The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act; Extension and Clarification of Compliance Dates for Certain Provisions of Four Implementing Rules: What You Need to Know About the Food and Drug Administration Regulation—Small Entity Compliance Guide (83 FR 22193).  According to FDA, the document provides explanations and clarifications regarding how small entities must comply with the final rule entitled: The Food and Drug Administration Food Safety Modernization Act; Extension and Clarification for Certain Provisions of Four Implementing Rules.  FDA stated that the intent of the guidance document is to reduce the burden encountered by small entities when determining how to comply with the final rule.

International Trade: China Increases Inspections on U.S. Pork Imports
On May 8, 2018, Reuters reported that Chinese customs officials have significantly increased inspections of U.S. pork products entering the country.  According to the report, previously, Chinese customs officials only conducted random inspections of pork shipments arriving from the U.S.   Now, however, at Chinese ports, officials are opening and inspecting each shipments of U.S. pork.  As a result, U.S. pork has been delayed at Chinese ports for up to two weeks, as opposed to the standard few days.  The report stated that numerous trade experts believe the increased inspections and delays are retaliation for recent trade demands made by the U.S. government.  

National Agricultural Policy: USDA Announces 2018 Rates Charged for AMS Services
On May 14, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced the rates that the agency will charge in 2018 for the voluntary grading, inspection, certification, auditing, and laboratory services for certain commodities (83 FR 22239).  Those commodities covered under the announced rates include: meat and poultry, fruits and vegetables, eggs, dairy products, and cotton and tobacco.  According to AMS, rates for 2018 have been increased for meat, poultry and egg grading and the hourly rate for AMS's Laboratory Approval Service.  All other rates, however, remain unchanged from 2017.

Farmland Preservation: American Farmland Trust Issues Report on Farmland Loss
On May 9, 2018, the American Farmland Trust issued a report entitled: Farms Under Threat: The State of America’s Farmland.  According to the report, from 1992 to 2012, almost 31 million acres of U.S. agricultural land was permanently lost to development.  The authors of the report recommend a national agricultural land protection strategy that includes increased funding of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program.

From National Ag Law Experts:

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Environmental Hearing Board

Penn State Research

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