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:
International Trade: U.S., Mexico, and Canada Sign New Trade Agreement
On November 30, 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau formally signed a new bilateral trade agreement entitled the United States Mexico Canada Agreement—or USMCA. The new trade agreement replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement which had been in effect since January 1, 1994. According to a Trump administration press release, USMCA will help U.S. farmers by increasing access to the Canadian market for dairy products, egg, and poultry. Additionally, the press release stated that U.S. dairy farmers will benefit through the elimination of Canada’s “Class 6” and “Class 7” programs which previously permitted “low-priced dairy products to undersell American dairy producers.” Before taking effect, USMCA must still be ratified by the legislatures of each of the three countries.
WOTUS: Washington Judge Vacates WOTUS Applicability Date
On November 28, 2018, a federal judge in the U.S. District Court, W.D. Washington vacated the U.S. Environmental Agency and U.S. Department of the Army (the agencies) addition of an applicability date to the 2015 Rule defining “waters of the United States” (Puget Soundkeeper Alliance v. Wheeler, Case 2:15-cv-01342-JCC). On January 31, 2018, the agencies issued a final rule that added an applicability date to the 2015 Rule. As a result, the 2015 Rule was not scheduled to become applicable until February 6, 2020. According to U.S. District Judge John C Coughenour, however, the agencies violated the Administrative Procedure Act by excluding “relevant and important comments” before promulgating the 2015 Rule applicability date. Therefore, the court ruled that the applicability date was unlawful and should be vacated nationwide.
Packers and Stockyards Act: USDA Issues Final Rule Eliminating GIPSA as Standalone Agency
On November 29, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published notice in the Federal Register of a final rule eliminating the Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) as a stand-alone agency (83 FR 61309). According to USDA, GIPSA is the “agency that facilitates the marketing of livestock, poultry, meat, cereals, oilseeds, and related agricultural products, and promotes fair and competitive trading practices for the overall benefit of consumers and American agriculture.” Under the final rule, GIPSA will no longer operate as a stand-alone agency, but instead become part of USDA's Marketing and Regulatory Programs.
Industrial Hemp: Pennsylvania Opens Application Process for 2019 Industrial Hemp Research Projects
On November 27, 2018, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) issued a press release announcing the availability of applications and guidelines regarding industrial hemp research permits for 2019. Under Pennsylvania’s Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program, research permits are only available to “institutions of higher education or to persons contracted with the department to grow industrial hemp for research purposes.” According to the press release, PDA is seeking to issue 60 industrial hemp research permits for 2019. The deadline to submit permit applications is December 17, 2018. PDA stated that successful applicants should expect to receive notification by January 4, 2019.
From National Ag Law Experts:
“Ohio Agricultural Law Blog--The Ag Law Harvests”, Ellen Essman and Evin Bachelor, Ohio State University Extension (December 4, 2018)
“Unanimous Supreme Court: ‘Critical Habitat’ Under Endangered Species Act Must Be Habitat”, Tiffany Dowell Lashmet, Texas Agricultural Law Blog (December 3, 2018)
“Blockchain: Understand Before Signing Up”, Todd Janzen, Janzen Ag Law Blog (December 3, 2018)
HB 2752: Legislation to revise state fireworks law (Referred to House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, November 27, 2018)
Pennsylvania Actions and Notices:
Department of Environmental Protection
Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture:
“Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission Announces Breeders Fund Awards, Sire Stakes Eligibility Deadlines”
Penn State Research:
“Companies launch plan to capture methane from hog manure lagoons” – The Washington Post
“Surviving the dairy farm crisis” – Farm and Dairy
“Russia has emerged as an agricultural powerhouse” – The Economist
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