Thursday, June 28, 2018

Agricultural Law Weekly Review - June 28, 2018

Written by:
Jackie Schweichler - Education Programs Coordinator

The following information is an update of recent local, state, national, and international legal developments relevant to agriculture.

Farm Bill: U.S. House Passes 2018 Farm Bill
On June 21, 2018,  by a vote of 213 to 211, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, better known as the 2018 Farm Bill, was passed by the U.S. House. The bill has been now been received for consideration by the Senate. Earlier, on June 13, 2018, the Senate Agriculture Committee reported the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, its version of the Farm Bill, out of committee. The Farm Bill reauthorizes and modifies many Department of Agriculture programs including those in conservation, nutrition assistance, farm credit, rural development, crop insurance, and more.

Farmland Preservation: Pennsylvania Governor Signs Bill Limiting the Use of Eminent Domain on Conserved Land
On June 24, 2018, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed HB 2468, a bill providing for changes to Pennsylvania’s eminent domain laws. Specifically, the legislation limits government agencies from using eminent domain on land that is subject to a conservation easement. Government agencies wishing to use eminent domain on this land would be required to obtain Orphans’ Court approval before they could acquire permanently preserved land.  

Water Quality: EPA Announces Expectations for Chesapeake Bay Phase III Watershed Implementation Plans
On June 20, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced their expectations for the Chesapeake Bay Phase III Watershed Implementation Plans. EPA sent letters to state agencies within the Chesapeake Bay basin outlining what goals and practices are expected to be in place by 2025 to achieve sediment and nutrient reduction goals. EPA expectations include developing comprehensive local engagement strategies, building necessary programs, obtaining funding capacity, incorporating new science and information, and optimizing choices of pollution reduction practices. This most recent EPA announcement is a further implementation of the a plan that began in 2010 when EPA established the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (Bay TMDL). To meet water quality standards, the Bay TMDL establishes pollution reductions necessary to address pollution from nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment.

Food Labeling: FDA to Reconsider Guidance on Labeling of Added Sugars for Maple Syrup and Honey
On June 19, 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it will reconsider and offer revisions on draft guidance regarding the labeling of added sugars, specifically maple syrup and honey. The draft guidance, The Declaration of Added Sugars on Honey, Maple Syrup, and Certain Cranberry Products; Draft Guidance for Industry; Availability, was issued in early March and received over 3,000 comments. The draft guidance advised manufacturers to categorize maple syrup and honey as “added sugars” on the nutrition label. Under this guidance, manufacturers could use a “” to lead the reader to a statement with additional information. In its press release, FDA stated that the “the approach laid out in the draft guidance does not provide the clarity that the FDA intended.”

WOTUS: EPA and Army Announce New Proposal for WOTUS
On June 15, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in a press release with the U.S. Department of the Army (Army) that they will be sending a new proposal regarding the definition of “waters of the United States,” or WOTUS, to the Office of Management and Budget for review. The  proposed “Step 2” redefines WOTUS to comply with the February 2017 Presidential Executive Order. Once the interagency review has been completed, the proposed rule will be issued for public comment.

Food Safety: FDA Releases Draft Guidance on Strategies to Protect Against Food Adulteration
On June 20, 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the release of draft guidance for the FDA regulation, Mitigation Strategies to Protect Food Against Intentional Adulteration. The purpose of the guidance document is to help food facilities that “manufacture, process, pack, or hold food…” to comply with current regulations. The guidance includes chapters on how to develop a Food Defense Plan, vulnerability assessments, strategies for actionable process steps, and food defense monitoring. Comments on the draft guidance will be accepted until December 17, 2018.

Antitrust: Court Says Egg Producers Did Not Violate Antitrust Laws
On June 14, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania issued a verdict in favor of egg producers in an antitrust lawsuit. (In re Processed Egg Prods. Antitrust Litig., E.D. Pa., No. 08-md-2002). According to Bloomberg, the jury found that while the producers did conspire, their actions did not unreasonably restrict trade and, therefore, they are not liable for antitrust violations. The lawsuit was brought by Kraft Foods Global, Inc., Kellogg Company, General Mills, Inc., and Nestlé USA, Inc. against United Egg Producers, Inc. The plaintiffs had accused the egg producers of conspiring to reduce the supply of eggs and increase the market price for egg products.

Animal Welfare: Prevention of Cruelty to Farm Animal Initiative to be Added to California Ballot
On June 22, 2018, the California Secretary of State announced the eligibility of a farm animal confinement initiative to be added to the November 6, 2018, ballot. The initiative, Prevention of Cruelty to Farm Animals Act, aims to phase out “extreme methods” of farm animal confinement to decrease the risk of foodborne illness. The initiative establishes minimum space requirements for veal calves, breeding pigs, and egg-laying hens. To qualify for the ballot, the initiative acquired over 402,468 valid petition signatures.

Dairy Policy: USDA Report Shows Increase in Dairy Herd Size and Milk Production
On June 19, 2018, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service published the Milk Production report for May 2018 which showed an increase in milk production and herd size. According to the report, the 23 major producing states produced 17.9 billion pounds of milk during May 2018, which was an increase of 0.9 percent from May 2017. Milk production per cow averaged 2,052 pounds for May, the highest production rate for the month of May since these reports began in 2003.  For all states, milk production increased by 0.8 percent from May 2017, and production per cow averaged 2,031 pounds.

National Agricultural Policy: Committee Report Examines Rural Economy
On June 20, 2018, the Joint Economic Committee released a report that examines the current state of the rural economy. According to the report, there are 46 million rural residents in the United States accounting for 14 percent of the total population. On average, rural families earn 25% less than those in urban areas but enjoy a higher rate of homeownership. To improve economic growth in rural communities, the report provides proposals in finance, education, infrastructure, housing, health care, and agriculture. The report is entitled, Investing in Rural America, Brining Progress and Economic Opportunity to Rural Communities.

Water Quality: United Nations Organization Releases Report on Water Pollution from Agriculture
On June 20, 2018, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations released a report on the impact of water from agricultural activities on the environment. The report is a compilation of data representing water pollution from rural and agricultural sectors, including crops, livestock and aquaculture. Specifically, the report analyzes agricultural irrigation, nitrogen fertilizers, chemical pesticides, oxygen depletion, and salinization. The report also examines the impacts of this pollution on human health, water sources, and the environment. The report is entitled, More People, More Food, Worse Water? A Global Review of Water Pollution from Agriculture.

From National Ag Law Experts:
Weekly Roundup, Tiffany Dowell Lashmet, Texas Agricultural Law Blog, June 21, 2018
Intentional Adulteration Mitigation Strategies - Initial Draft Guidance, Michael J. O’Flaherty, Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz PC, June 25, 2018

Pennsylvania Legislation
Agriculture and Rural Affairs (H)
SB 819: bill to ensure that agritourism activities are treated as part of agriculture authorized on farms preserved under the state farmland preservation program (passed by the Senate June 18, 2018) (referred to the House June 20, 2018)

Agriculture and Rural Affairs
SB 1171: provides for the creation of a new Farm Animal Advisory Board to give farmers more input into environmental regulations (passed in the House June 20, 2018)

Follow us on Twitter at PSU Ag & Shale Law (@AgShaleLaw) to receive ShaleLaw HotLinks
"Weeds Are Winning in the War against Herbicide Resistance" - Scientific America
"Protecting the U.S. food supply from attack" - Morning Ag Clips
"U.S. studies EU’s tactics for African swine fever defense" - National Hog Farmer
“Trade Groups Ask Congress to Step in Regarding Trade” - Brownfield
"Does agriculture need reset key on herbicides?" - Farmpress
"Virulent Newcastle Disease means backyard chicken craze needs to clean up its act" – Food Safety News
"Milk alternatives hastening change in dairy industry"  - Feedstuffs
"EU Tariffs on U.S. Ag Goods Making Waves" - Brownfield
"Groups weigh in on House farm bill vote" - FarmPress
"A trade war with China could hit these communities hardest" - Washington Post

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