Thursday, November 29, 2018

Agricultural Law Weekly Review—November 29, 2018

Written by: M. Sean High (Staff Attorney)
The following information is an update of recent local, state, national, and international legal developments relevant to agriculture:

Food Safety: FDA Issues Statement on Romaine Lettuce Outbreak Investigation
On November 26, 2018, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb issued a statement regarding the recent outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections related to the consumption of romaine lettuce.  According to the statement, since October 31, 2018, 43 cases of such illness have been reported in 12 states.  While FDA has not located the source of the outbreak, the agency asserted that hydroponically or greenhouse grown romaine lettuce does not appear to be affected.  According to Commissioner Gottlieb, the major producers and distributors of romaine lettuce have voluntarily agreed to label the product with a harvest location and a harvest date.  Additionally, the labels will indicate whether the product has been hydroponically, or greenhouse grown.  Commissioner Gottlieb stated that consumers should not eat or use any romaine lettuce that does not provide this information.

Labor: DOL Resolves Hiring Discrimination Cases Against Meat Processing Company
On November 15, 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced a consent decree with meat processor JBS USA regarding alleged hiring discrimination practices at the company's beef processing facilities in Hyrum, Utah, and Cactus, Texas.  According to DOL, JBS USA discriminated against 12,625 individuals who had applied for general production laborer positions at the two facilities.  While the company has denied the allegations, under the consent decree, JBS USA has agreed to pay $4,000,000 to the 12,625 individuals.  Additionally, JBS USA has agreed to hire 1,664 of the applicants at the Hyrum and Cactus locations.

Water Quality: Penn State Researchers Explore Animal Agriculture in Western PA
On November 5, 2018, researchers at Penn State University reported that the establishment of animal agriculture in western Pennsylvania may someday help the state meet nutrient-reduction goals in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  Located in the Susquehanna River basin, western Pennsylvania drains into the Ohio River system and does not face the water-quality limits established in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  As a result, the researchers studied the regions potential for developing new animal agriculture facilities and related manure-management activities.  According to lead researcher Cibin Raj, the study is intended to be “a first step in exploring opportunities and challenges to developing animal agriculture in western Pennsylvania in a way that is both economically and environmentally sustainable.”

Animal Welfare: Group Sues USDA over Animal Food Product Labeling Requirements
On November 14, 2018, the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) announced a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) due to the agency’s delay in responding to AWI’s 2014 petition regarding animal food product labeling requirements.  In the 2014 petition, AWI called on USDA “to amend labeling regulations under the Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Poultry Products Inspection Act to require independent third-party certification for the approval of animal welfare and environmental stewardship claims on meat and poultry products.” According to AWI, since its filing in 2014, USDA has failed to respond or take regulatory action to address the concerns raised in the petition.

Organic Agriculture: USDA Schedules National Organic Standards Board Meeting
On November 26, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published notice in the Federal Register that the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) will hold a public meeting on April 24-26, 2019, in Seattle, Washington (83 FR 60373).  According to USDA, NOSB “assists the USDA in the development of standards for substances to be used in organic production and advises the Secretary of Agriculture on any other aspects of the implementation of the Organic Foods Production Act.” NOSB will hear oral public comments during webinars scheduled for April 16 and April 18, 2019, and at the NOSB public meeting on April 24 and April 25, 2019.  The deadline for submission of written comments and webinar sign-up is April 4, 2019.   

From National Ag Law Experts:
“Ohio Agricultural Law Blog--The Ag Law Harvests”, Evin Bachelor, Ohio State University Extension (November 20, 2018)
“Elite Food Standards and More”, John R. Block, Ag/FDA Blog – Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz PC (November 21, 2018)
“Medicare Planning and Farm Assets”, Patrick B. Dillon, Dillon Law P.C. Blog (November 26, 2018)

Pennsylvania Actions and Notices:
Department of Agriculture

State Board of Veterinary Medicine

State Conservation Commission

Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture:

Penn State Research:

AgLaw HotLinks:

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