Thursday, December 20, 2018

Agricultural Law Weekly Review—December 20, 2018

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

Publication Note: The Agricultural Law Weekly Review will not be published during the holiday week of December 24-28.  The next scheduled publication date will be January 3, 2019.

Right to Farm Laws: Judge Denies Punitive Damages in Latest Hog Farm Nuisance Lawsuit
On December 13, 2018, The News & Observer reported that a federal district judge has denied punitive damages sought against hog producer Murphy-Brown, LLC regarding nuisance litigation in North Carolina.  This lawsuit centers around Sholar Farms, a swine operation in Sampson County, North Carolina, and eight neighbors who alleged that the operation created a nuisance due to foul odors and excessive noise.  The jury found in favor of the plaintiff’s and awarded between $100 and $75,000 in compensation for the harm of living near the hog farm.  While the plaintiff’s counsel further argued for punitive damages, presiding judge David Faber determined there was not enough evidence in this case to pursue the additional damages.

National Agricultural Policy: USDA’s New Program for High Speed Internet in Rural America
On Thursday, December 13, 2018, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is offering internet service providers, telecommunications companies, municipalities, rural electric cooperatives and utilities, up to $600 million in loans and grants to help build high speed broadband infrastructure throughout rural America.  Secretary Perdue stated that “high speed internet e-Connectivity is a necessity, not an amenity, vital for the quality of life and economic opportunity.” Approximately $200M of the funds will be allocated for grants, $200M for loan and grant combinations, and $200M for low-interest loans.  For more information on application deadlines see page 64315 of the December 14, 2018 Federal Register.  This funding can be applied for through the USDA’s new ReConnect Program and is administered primarily under the USDA’s Rural Development Agency.

Water Quality: Ohio Legislative Committee Rejects Revisions to State’s Watershed Rule
On December 10, 2018, an Ohio legislative committee voted to send watershed rule revisions back to the state’s department of agriculture for further consideration.  Known as the “watersheds in distress” rules, the revisions are an attempt by the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) to deal with issues related to nutrient management and water quality.  The legislative committee, called the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review, determined by a vote of 8 – 1 that ODA should revise and refile the rules for when the committee next meets on January 22, 2019.  For a more in-depth analysis of the ruling, please see Peggy Kirk Hall’s recent article entitled: “’Watersheds in distress’ rules don’t clear the JCARR hurdle”

International Trade: USDA Announces Second Round of Trade Mitigation Payments for Farmers
On December 17, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a second round of trade mitigation payments for farmers adversely affected by trade retaliation by foreign nations.  Accordingly, farmers that produce almonds, cotton, corn, milk, hogs, soybeans, sorghum, fresh sweet cherries, and wheat will now be eligible to receive Market Facilitation Program payments for the second half of their 2018 production.  According to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, payments are intended to help affected producers deal with short-term cash flow issues.  Interested producers can receive more information at their local USDA Farm Service Agency office or visit

Antibiotic Use: McDonald’s Announces New Antibiotic Policy for Beef
On December 11, 2018, McDonald’s announced a new policy intended to reduce antibiotics in the beef supplied to the food company.  According to McDonald’s, antibiotic resistance poses a recognized threat to global health, food security, and development.  As a result, the company hopes to cause a reduction in the use of antibiotics in beef production through:

  • Partnering with producers that supply beef in the company’s top 10 beef sourcing markets to measure and understand current antibiotic usage;
  • By the end of 2020, establishing targets to reduce medically important antibiotics in the company’s top 10 beef sourcing markets; and
  • Beginning in 2022, reporting progress made in reducing antibiotic usage in the company’s top 10 beef sourcing markets.

From National Ag Law Experts:
“2018 Ag Law Year in Review”,  Tiffany Dowell Lashmet, Texas Agricultural Law Blog (December 17, 2018)
“Congress Sends 2018 Farm Bill to President”, Kristine A. Tidgren, The Ag Docket – Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation (December 15, 2018)
“Ohio Agricultural Law Blog--We bring you tidings of gifts and tax implications in this season of giving”, Evin Bachelor, Ag Law Blog – Agricultural Law & Taxation – Ohio State University Extension (December 7, 2018)  

Pennsylvania Actions and Notices:
Department of Environmental Protection

Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture:

Penn State Research:

AgLaw HotLinks:

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