Friday, December 14, 2018

Agricultural Law Weekly Review—December 13, 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:

Farm Bill: House Passes 2018 Farm Bill Conference Report
On December 12, 2018, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the 2018 Farm Bill conference report by a vote of 369-47 (H.R.2 - Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018).  Following passage, House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (TX) stated that the proposed legislation “strengthens the farm safety net and our rural communities, improves conservation initiatives, expands exports and enhances the integrity of our nutrition programs.” The bill now moves to the president for his signature.

WOTUS: Revised "Waters of the United States" Definition Proposed
On December 11, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Army (Army) announced a proposed definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) intended to clarify federal authority under the Clean Water Act.  EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler stated that “[o]ur proposal would replace the Obama EPA’s 2015 definition with one that respects the limits of the Clean Water Act and provides states and landowners the certainty they need to manage their natural resources and grow local economies.” According to the EPA and the Army, comments on the proposal will be accepted for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.  The Revised Definition of "Waters of the United States" Proposed Rule - Pre-publication Version may be viewed here.

Animal Welfare: DOJ Supports California Over Animal Confinement Standards
On November 30, 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed an amicus brief
recommending that the U.S. Supreme Court deny a challenge brought by 13 states against California’s Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act.  Enacted by voters in 2008, and later modified, the California law requires that eggs sold in the state may only come from laying-hens that are permitted the ability to lie down, stand up, fully extending their limbs, and turn around freely.  According to the attorneys general, the California law violates the commerce clause and has resulted in higher egg prices nationwide since it took effect in 2015.  Additionally, the attorneys general argued that the California law was preempted by the federal Egg Products Inspection Act (EPIA).  DOJ asserted, however, that the attorneys general should be denied because the case does not fall under the Court’s original jurisdiction, the plaintiffs lack standing, the California law does do not violate the Commerce Clause, and the California law is not preempted by the EPIA.

Food Policy: USDA Publishes School Meals Final Rule
On December 12, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published notice in the Federal Register of a final rule regarding school meal flexibilities (83 FR 63775).  Entitled: Child Nutrition Programs: Flexibilities for Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium Requirements, the new rule provides schools new options under the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, and other federal child nutrition programs.  Accordingly, the new rule allows schools the ability to offer flavored, low-fat milk; requires that half of the weekly grains in the school lunch and breakfast menu be whole grain-rich; and grants schools more time to reduce sodium levels in school meals. 

From National Ag Law Experts:
“Congressional Agenda”, John R. Block, Ag/FDA Blog – Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz PC (December 11, 2018)
“Clean Water Act Application to Groundwater: Keeping Score”, Tiffany Dowell Lashmet, Texas Agricultural Law Blog (December 10, 2018)
“Tracing E-Coli Outbreaks”, Brianna Schroeder, Schroeder Ag Law Blog – Janzen Ag Law (November 27, 2018)

Pennsylvania Actions and Notices:
Department of Agriculture

Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture:

Penn State Research:

AgLaw HotLinks:

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