Thursday, September 6, 2018

Agricultural Law Weekly Review - September 6, 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.

Food Labeling: Missouri Releases Guidance on Changes to Meat Advertising Law for Plant-Based Products
On August 30, 2018, the Missouri Department of Agriculture released guidance on the new changes to the Missouri Meat Advertising Law. The new legislation was part of an omnibus agriculture bill that was signed in June 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 guidance states that products must include the qualifier such as “plant-based,” “veggie,” “lab-grown,” “lab-created” before or after the product name.  In addition, plant-based meat products must include a statement on the package that says the product is “made from plants” or “grown in a lab.” These new rules will not be enforced until January 1, 2019.

Right to Farm Laws: Court Lifts Gag Order and Delays Trial in Hog Farm Lawsuit
On August 31, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Southern Division in North Carolina lifted a gag order in the ongoing nuisance lawsuits brought against Murphy-Brown, LLC (McKiver, et al., v. Murphy-Brown, et al., 2018 WL 4183201).  Murphy-Brown is a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork processor and hog producer. The plaintiffs include 26 neighboring landowners who complain of odors and other problems associated with living next to a hog farm.  The gag order was issued upon concerns that trial publicity was affecting the integrity of the judicial process.  The court is lifting the gag order in light of the delay of the next trial, which was originally scheduled for September 4, 2018, but has now been moved to November 13, 2018.

National Agricultural Policy: USDA Announces Website for Rural Broadband Pilot Program
On August 29, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a new website which provides information on the pilot program to bring high-speed internet access to rural America.  USDA currently offers $700 million in programs to provide broadband to rural communities.  Under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, USDA received an additional $600 million to expand broadband infrastructure.  These programs are intended to help industries including, manufacturing, agricultural production, mining, and forestry.  According to the USDA website, eighty percent of 24 million rural American households do not have access to affordable, reliable high-speed internet.

Animal Welfare: Animal Welfare Groups Sue USDA for Failure to Disclose Records
On August 23, 2018, several animal welfare groups filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York to compel the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to release records regarding the humane treatment of animals for slaughter (Animal Welfare Institute, et al., v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1:18-cv-00937).  According to the plaintiffs, under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) they have routinely requested Noncompliance Records and Memoranda of Interviews in order to monitor USDA and keep the public informed.  The documents are prepared under the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act and the Poultry Products Inspection Act.  The plaintiffs have submitted over 135 requests for these documents since 2009 and the agency routinely fails to respond within the 20-day time limit established by FOIA. The plaintiffs state that they often wait months before receiving these records and they are substantially hindered in their education and advocacy efforts when relying on untimely information.

Antitrust: Proposed Bill Would Impose Moratorium on Agricultural Business Mergers
On August 28, 2018, U.S. Senator Cory Booker introduced SB 3404 which will impose a moratorium on large agricultural business mergers.  The bill will affect mergers and acquisitions for food and beverage manufacturers, grocery retail, and large agribusiness.  According to a statement by Senator Booker, three companies now control the top two-thirds of the seed market and almost 70 percent of the agricultural chemical markets.  Senator Booker also expressed concerns about the mergers resulting in “monopolistic corporate practices” that create lower wages for workers.   The bill is intended to slow acquisitions and mergers in order so that Congress has time to pass antitrust laws in order to “protect farmers, workers, consumers, and rural communities.”

From National Ag Law Experts:
Kristine Tidgren, USDA Issues Details of New Payment Program, Iowa State University (August 31, 2018).

Tiffany Dowell Lashmet, USDA - 2018 Land Values Summary, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension (September 4, 2018).

Karen Hansen-Kuhn and Oliver Moore, #AgTech Takeback - Debate by ARC2020 and IATP, Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy (September 5, 2018).

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