Thursday, July 12, 2018

Agricultural Law Weekly Review - July 12, 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.

Antitrust: Supermarket Chains File Antitrust Complaint Against Chicken Producers
On June 29, 2018, The Kroger Co., and other supermarket chains filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois alleging illegal trade restraint practices in the chicken industry (The Kroger Co., et al. v. Tyson Foods Inc. et al., 1:18-cv-04534). The complaint was brought against Tyson Foods, Inc. and several other U.S. chicken producers. The plaintiffs allege that U.S. chicken producers violated federal antitrust laws by restraining trade to increase the price of chickens sold in the U.S. from 2008 to 2016. According to the plaintiffs, the chicken producers reduced the supply of broiler chickens and then manipulated wholesale chicken price indices.

Antitrust: Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against U.S. Pork Producers
On June 28, 2018, consumers filed a class action complaint against U.S. pork producers and Agri Stats, Inc. (Duryea, et al., v. Agri Stats., et al., 0:18-cv-01776) Agri Stats is a company that provides accounting and data information to customers in the poultry, egg, and swine industries. The complaint alleges that the pork producers and Agri Stats conspired to fix U.S. pork prices. According to the plaintiffs, the pork producers coordinated pork output and limited production to increase pork prices. The plaintiffs argue that through Agri Stats, the pork producers exchanged competitively sensitive non-public information regarding prices, capacity, sales volume, and demand. One of the pork producers, Hormel Foods, has released a statement arguing that the allegations are “completely without merit.”

Biosecurity: Kansas Adopts Cattle Disease Traceability Program
On June 30, 2018, Kansas announced the Cattle Trace pilot project. Cattle Trace is a public-private partnership which was created to manage cattle disease and provide critical tools in the event of an outbreak. Cattle Trace will be able to show where diseased or at-risk animals have been and when, in order for a fast and efficient response. The program will allow Kansas to test the limits of the traceability system and determine if it is capable of informing and guiding development on a national level. The Cattle Trace system was created following a vote of the Kansas Livestock Association.

Food Labeling: Comment Period Closes for Proposed Bioengineered Food Labeling Rule
On July 3, 2018, the comment period closed for the Agricultural Marketing Service’s (AMS) proposed rule, National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard. The proposed rule would require food manufacturers to disclose information about bioengineered food and ingredient content on any foods sold in retail. According to AMS, food manufacturers are not required to disclose information about the health, safety, or environmental attributes of bioengineered food versus non-bioengineered food. The proposed rule suggests several options for disclosure including written statements, three alternative symbols, and electronic/digital link. The Secretary of Agriculture was directed by Congress to create a national bioengineered disclosure standard by July 29, 2018, through the enactment of Public Law 114-216 (7 U.S.C. 1621).

Animal Welfare: National Chicken Council Certifies Animal Welfare Guidelines for Broiler Chickens
On July 10, 2018, the National Chicken Council announced that their animal welfare guidelines have been certified by the Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization. The guidelines specifically apply to broiler and broiler breeder chickens and focus on bird behavior, recordkeeping, corrective action requirements, increased oversight, time requirements for euthanasia, and catching requirements. The guidelines require that the “birds must have enough space to express normal behaviors such as dust bathing, preening, eating, drinking, etc.” The guidelines also limit the number of birds permitted in a chicken house based on the size of the barn, equipment, and target weight of the birds.

International Trade: FAO Reports Decline in Overall Food Price Index for June
On July 5, 2018, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) released their monthly FAO Food Price Index (FFPI). The FFPI is a measure of the change in international prices, weighted with the average export shares. The FFPI includes five commodity groups, including cereal, vegetable, dairy, meat, and sugar. For June 2018, the overall FFPI decreased by 1.3 percent. According to FAO, price index decreases can be attributed to “rising tensions in international trade relations.” Cereal, vegetable, and dairy price indexes decreased by 3.7%, 3%, and 0.9%, respectively. The FAO meat price index increased by 0.3% and the sugar price index increased by 1.2%. The sugar price index increase is likely due to the high use of sugarcane for ethanol production in Brazil, according to FAO.

From National Ag Law Experts:
Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy, QR Codes and GMOs: The Proposed Food Labeling Rule (July 10, 2018)
Tiffany Dowell Lashmet, NM Land Commissioner Sues NM State Engineer Over Water Permits, Texas Agriculture Law (July 9, 2018)

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