Thursday, August 30, 2018

Agricultural Law Weekly Review - August 30, 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.

Agricultural Policy: Pennsylvania Governor Announces Plan for Agriculture Industry
On August 15, 2018, at the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences’ annual Ag Progress Days, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced a six-point plan to strengthen the Commonwealth’s agriculture industry.  The agricultural improvement plan includes rebuilding and expanding infrastructure, strengthening the state’s workforce, and removing regulatory burdens. The plan also includes creating business ownership succession plans and making Pennsylvania the nation’s leading organic state.  Part of this plan includes raising public awareness among agricultural producers in order to meet the increasing demand for organic foods.

International Trade: USDA Announces Details on Programs to Help Farmers Affected By Trade Tariffs
On August 27, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provided details on programs that will help farmers negatively affected by the current international trade environment.  According to USDA, the market disruption was caused by China’s retaliatory tariffs imposed on agricultural products.  USDA responded by authorizing $12 billion in programs to compensate farmers for their losses.  The Market Facilitation Program will provide payments to corn, cotton, dairy, hog, sorghum, and wheat producers. The Food Purchase and Distribution Program will use $1.2 billion to purchase commodities for distribution through nutrition assistance programs. In addition, the Agricultural Trade Promotion Program will provide $200 million to help develop foreign markets for agricultural products.

WOTUS: Several States File Suit Requesting Stay of WOTUS Rule
On August 22, 2018, several states filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to request a nationwide stay of the Waters of the United States or WOTUS rule (State of Texas, et al., v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, et al., No. 3:15-cv-0162).  In a recent court order from August 16, 2018, a federal district court in South Carolina suspended the WOTUS rule for twenty-four states.  The plaintiff states – Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas – argue that this inconsistency across state lines will cause irreparable harm.

Organic Agriculture: California Court Allows Lawsuit to Go Forward Against USDA for Withdrawal of Organic Regulations
On August 21, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California allowed the legal challenge brought by the Center for Environmental Health (Center) to go forward against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the withdrawal of organic regulations (Center for Environmental Health, et al., v. Sonny Perdue, et al., 18-cv-01763-RS).  USDA published the  Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule in January 2017 to address livestock handling, transport for slaughter, avian living conditions, and other organic production practices.  In March 2018, however, USDA withdrew the rule after determining that the rule would exceed USDA authority. In light of these actions, Center filed this complaint alleging that withdrawal of the rule violates the Organic Foods Production Act

Food Labeling: Plant-Based Meat Companies Sue Missouri for Labeling Law
On August 27, 2018, the several organizations filed a complaint against the state of Missouri in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri challenging a law which prohibits companies from using the word “meat” on labels for plant-based products (Turtle Island Foods, et al., v. Missouri, No. 18-cv-4173).  The new Missouri law, originally Senate Bill 627, was part of the omnibus agriculture bill signed in June 2018.  It went into effect on August 28, 2018.  According to the law, advertising “or misrepresenting a product as meat that is not derived from harvested production livestock or poultry,” constitutes a misleading or deceptive practice.  The plaintiffs, who include a plant-based meat corporation, argue that using meat terminology with qualifying and descriptive language accurately conveys to consumers the ingredients in their products. According to the plaintiffs, the law does nothing to protect consumers from potentially misleading information, and there is no evidence that consumers are confused about ingredients in plant-based meats.  The plaintiffs allege that this law will only impede market competition.

Food Policy: Court Rules in Favor of Public Food Sharing as Expressive Conduct
On August 22, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held that an organization’s food sharing events qualify as a form of protected expression (Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs, et al., v. City of Fort Lauderdale, No. 16-16808).  The organization, Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs (FLFNB), is a non-profit entity that hosts weekly meals to share food at a public park in the city.  The City of Fort Lauderdale enacted an ordinance in 2014 that restricted public food sharing, which led to FLFNB filing this suit.  In the most recent order, the court held that FLFNB’s food sharing conveys a message and, therefore, is a form of speech protected by the First Amendment.

Food Policy: FDA Extends Comment Period on 2018 Strategic Policy Plan
On August 22, 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it will be extending the comment period for a public meeting regarding FDA’s 2018 strategic policy plan.  FDA presented the plan in January 2018 and held a public meeting in June 2018.  The plan prioritizes reducing the burden of addiction, improving access to healthcare, providing better information to consumers regarding health issues, and increasing efficient risk management.  After receiving several requests, FDA decided to extend the comment period to give interested persons more time to participate. FDA will now be accepting comment until October 11, 2018. 

From National Ag Law Experts:
Tiffany Dowell Lashmet, Court Upholds Finding of Easement by Estoppel, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension (August 27, 2018).

Ben Lilliston, Will the Farm Bill Deliver for the Climate?, Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy (August 29, 2018).

Pennsylvania Notices
Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Project Contractors, soliciting grant applications for various projects (August 25, 2018)

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