M. Sean High—Staff Attorney
Deanna Smith—Research Assistant
The following information is an update of recent local, state, national, and international legal developments relevant to agriculture:
Pesticides: California Judge Upholds Verdict against Monsanto for Glyphosate Exposure
On October 22, 2018, a judge for San Francisco’s Superior Court of California denied Monsanto’s motion for judgement notwithstanding the verdict as well their request for a new trial in the Dewayne Johnson case. Bayer Ag unit Monsanto filed the aforementioned motions after an August 10, 2018 jury verdict awarded the plaintiff, Dewayne Johnson, $289M for successfully arguing that years of exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup caused him to be diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. (Dewayne Johnson v. Monstanto Co., case no. CGC-16-550128). While the judge upheld the verdict, she slashed the punitive damages to equal that of the compensatory damages, reducing the total jury award to $78M instead of $289M. Plaintiff has until December 7, 2018 to accept the modified award or a new trial will be granted to determine punitive damages. For more background information on this case, please see the Ag Law Weekly Review for August 16, 2018, and September 27, 2018.
FSMA: FDA Issues New FSMA Draft Guidance
On October 19, 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued two new draft guidance documents intended to help produce growers and fresh-cut produce processors comply with the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The first draft guidance, entitled: Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption: Guidance for Industry, is designed to assist growers meet FSMA Produce Safety Rule the requirements. The second draft guidance, entitled: Draft Guidance for Industry: Guide to Minimize Food Safety Hazards of Fresh-cut Produce, explains the FDA’s current thinking on how fresh-cut produce processors (such as those processing bagged salad mixes) may comply with FSMA Preventive Controls for Human Food Rule requirements.
Water Law: President Signs Memorandum Addressing Western Water Regulations
On October 19, 2018, President Trump signed a presidential memorandum entitled: Presidential Memorandum on Promoting the Reliable Supply and Delivery of Water in the West. According to the memorandum, throughout the 20th Century, the Federal Government developed a water infrastructure in the western U.S. that was designed to reduce floods, provide reliable water supplies, and generate dependable hydropower. The memorandum asserted, however, that because this water infrastructure has been uncoordinated, both water and power have not been delivered in “an efficient, cost‑effective way.” As a result, the memorandum calls on the U.S. Secretary of the Interior and the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to work collaboratively to reduce unnecessary regulations and provided more efficient decision-making to better meet water needs.
Food Safety: A Case of BSE Has Been Confirmed in Scotland
On October 18, 2018, the Scottish Government confirmed a case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) on a farm in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. BSE, commonly referred to as “mad cow disease,” is defined by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service as “a progressive and fatal neurologic disease of cattle,” that causes brain degeneration. The human consumption of beef contaminated with BSE has been linked to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a degenerative brain disorder in humans with dementia-like symptoms, as well as other syndromes. Scotland’s Animal Health Agency is currently investigating the source of the outbreak, but Food Standards Scotland has confirmed that this outbreak poses no risk to human health as it did not enter the food chain.
Food Policy: USDA, EPA, and FDA Announce Initiative to Reduce Food Waste
On October 18, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced the signing of a joint agency formal agreement intended to reduce food waste in the U.S. Signed as part of the Winning on Reducing Food Waste initiative, the agreement seeks to allow for agency collaboration and coordination of existing federal programs so as to better educate Americans on reducing food loss and waste. According to the announcement, the U.S. annually throws away more than 75 billion pounds of food with one third of available food not eaten.
From National Ag Law Experts:
Opinion: The EU Gene-Editing Decision: Parliament Should Not Let it Stand, Marshall L. Matz, Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz PC (October 18, 2018)
Should We Just Ban “Best By” Labels on Food?, Dan Nosowitz, Modern Farmer (October 12, 2018)
Consumer Demands are Changing Livestock Farms, Brianna J. Schroeder, Schroeder Ag Law Blog – Janzen Ag Law (October 19, 2018)
SB 1171: Nutrient management and odor management legislation addressing the Nutrient Management Advisory Board and the Agricultural Advisory Board (Presented to the Governor, October 18, 2018)
HB 2723: Legislation prohibiting the practice of pet leasing (Referred to House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, October 17, 2018)
Pennsylvania Actions and Notices:
Department of Agriculture
Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
Penn State Research:
Agricultural damage from Hurricane Michael forecast to top $1.3 billion, led by cotton and pecans – CNBC
‘Hyperalarming’ study shows massive insect loss – The Washington Post
Best use of wildflowers to benefit crops – Morning AgClips
Study: Rural Americans Are Optimistic Despite Challenges – Brownfield Ag News
From Agriculture to Art — the A.I. Wave Sweeps In – The New York Times
War veterans find sustenance–and solace–in farming – PBS News Hour
More farm workers now documented under H-2A program – Brownfield Ag News
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