Thursday, July 26, 2018

Agricultural Law Weekly Review - July 26, 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.

Soda Tax: Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Philadelphia Soda Tax
On July 18, 2018, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania affirmed that the Philadelphia City Council has the authority to enact the Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Tax, better known as Philadelphia’s soda tax (Phila. Code, ch. 19-4100). The tax was introduced on March 3, 2016, and applies a 1.5 cent per fluid ounce tax to sugar-sweetened beverages.  A group of consumers, retailers, distributors, and producers brought this suit challenging the legality of the tax. They argued that the soda tax constituted a duplicative tax and was preempted under the Sterling Act. The current court ruling affirms the lower court’s ruling that the soda tax “does not apply to the same transaction or subject as the state sales and use tax,” and was therefore not duplicative. (Williams v. City of Phila., Nos. 2 & 3 EAP 2018)

Farm Bill: House Sends 2018 Farm Bill to Conference Committee
On July 18, 2018, the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of sending the 2018 Farm Bill to conference committee. The committee members are tasked with resolving the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. One of the primary differences between the two bills is the proposed work requirement changes in the House version of the bill for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  The 2018 Farm Bill provides general updates and changes to Department of Agriculture programs including those in conservation, nutrition assistance, farm credit, rural development, crop insurance, and more.

International Trade: USDA Announces $12 Billion in Relief Programs to Agricultural Producers
On July 24, 2018, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture announced that the  U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will be providing monetary relief to farmers affected by the impacts of foreign trade changes. USDA estimates the impact on agricultural goods to be approximately $11 billion and will authorize $12 billion in relief programs. USDA will provide payments to affected farmers and purchase surplus commodities to distribute these foods to various nutrition programs.  According to USDA, the market disruption was caused by China’s retaliatory tariffs imposed on agricultural products. Affected agricultural commodities include soybeans, sorghum, milk, pork, fruits, nuts, and specialty crops.

Agricultural Labor: H-2C Agricultural Work Visa Program Introduced into U.S. House of Representatives
On July 18, 2018, the AG and Legal Workforce Act (H.R. 6417), or H-2C, was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives, in an effort to improve upon the current H-2A program. H-2C would be a nonimmigrant work visa program for agricultural workers. The bill mandates a gradual phase-in of the E-verify system, a web-based program that checks social security numbers of new employees. The previous paper-based I-9 system would be repealed.  The H-2C program would be available throughout the year and would allow 450,000 worker visas. The H-2C bill also includes wage requirements but does not require employers to provide housing and transportation for their workers. The primary sponsor of the bill is House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte.

Checkoff Programs: Christmas Tree Producers Vote in Favor of Federal Promotion Program
On July 19, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that U.S.Christmas tree producers and importers have voted in favor of the federal research and promotion program. The promotion program is operated by the Christmas Tree Promotion Board, a 12 member board consisting of producers across the U.S. The assessment rate is $0.15 per Christmas tree sold within the U.S. The assessment does not apply to businesses that sell fewer than 500 trees annually. The assessment funds are used for promotion, research, and information gathering in order to increase the demand for Christmas trees. USDA Agricultural Marketing Service held a referendum during May 2018, and 51% of producers and importers voted to continue the program.

From National Ag Law Experts:

Uprooted Episode 39: The Science of Beef and Greenhouse Gases, Josh Wise, Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy, July 20, 2018

Pennsylvania Notices
Conservation and Natural Resources Advisory Council meeting, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (July 14, 2018)

Pennsylvania Malt & Brewed Beverage Industry Board solicits grant proposals for promotion, marketing and research projects (July 21, 2018).

Joint Agriculture and Rural Affairs informational committee meeting at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center (August 15, 2018)

Milk Marketing Board to conduct a public hearing for Milk Marketing Areas 1-6 regarding the level and duration of the Class I over-order Premium on September 5, 2018 in Harrisburg.

Milk Marketing Board to conduct a public hearing for Milk Marketing Areas 1-6 regarding cooperative milk procurement costs on October 3, 2018 in Harrisburg.

Pennsylvania Legislation
SB 1171: provides for the creation of a new Farm Animal Advisory Board to give farmers more input into environmental regulations (passed in the Senate June 20, 2018, referred to House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee June 21, 2018)
*this has been updated to correct an inaccuracy within a previous Weekly Review.

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