Thursday, January 3, 2019

Agricultural Law Weekly Review—January 3, 2019

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: President signs 2018 Farm Bill
On December 20, 2018, President Donald Trump signed into law the 2018 Farm Bill (H.R.2 - Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018).  According to a White House press release, the new legislation addresses crop insurance, maintains disaster programs for farmers affected by weather market disruptions, promotes agricultural exports, expands rural broadband efforts, promotes voluntary conservation, facilitates water infrastructure, and encourages forest management.  The White House stated that the 2018 Farm Bill, which passed the U.S. Senate by a vote of 87-13 and the U.S. House by a vote of 369-47, was the first farm bill since 1990 that was enacted in the same year it was introduced.

Food Labeling: USDA Issues GMO Labeling Final Rule
On December 21, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published notice in the Federal Register of a final rule establishing the new national mandatory bioengineered (BE) food disclosure standard (83 FR 65814).  BE foods are also commonly known as genetically modified foods.  Under the new rule, food manufacturers, importers, and other entities that label foods for retail sale will be required to disclose information about BE food and BE food ingredients.  Disclosure options include text, symbol, electronic or digital link, and/or text message.  Additional options, however, are available for small food manufacturers.  Implementation of the new rule begins on January 1, 2020, though implementation for small food manufacturers begins on January 1, 2021.  For more information and to view the new BE labels, visit USDA here.

Conservation Easement: DOJ Brings Suit against Alleged Conservation Easement Tax Scheme
On December 19, 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia regarding an alleged illegal conservation easement syndication tax scheme.  According to DOJ, the alleged scheme involves donations of conservation easements and false or fraudulent tax benefits from those donations.  DOJ stated that the named defendants “sold at least 96 conservation easement syndicates resulting in the syndicates reporting over $2.0 billion of tax deductions…resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars of tax harm.”

FSMA: FDA Publishes Electronic User Guide for Accredited Third-Party Certification Program
On December 20, 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the publication of an electronic user guide for the agency’s Accredited Third-Party Certification Program Portal.  Established under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, the Accredited Third-Party Certification Program allows FDA to recognize “accreditation bodies” that may accredit third-party “certification bodies.” Upon receiving accreditation, third-party certification bodies will be permitted to conduct food safety audits and issue certifications for food facilities.  According to FDA, the purpose of the guide is to help entities apply for recognition as accreditation bodies and to help recognized accreditation bodies manage their accounts.

Organic Agriculture: Farmer Charged for Falsely Marketing $140M Worth of Organic Grain
On December 19, 2018, the Associated Press (AP) reported  that a Missouri farmer was being charged for falsely marketing more than $140 million worth of corn, soybeans and wheat as certified organic grains.  According to the AP, Randy Constant marketed his grain products as certified organic even though at least 90% of the grain sold was non-organic.  The AP stated that Constant’s scheme dated back to at least 2004 and that the alleged victims included food companies and their customers who paid higher prices for organic products.

From National Ag Law Experts:
“Texas Court Stays Judgment Rendering ACA Invalid”, Kristine A. Tidgren, The Ag Docket- Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation (December 30, 2018)
“AgTech Year in Reverse: 2018”, Todd Janzen, Janzen Ag Law (December 27, 2018)

Pennsylvania Actions and Notices:
Department of Environmental Protection

Milk Marketing Board

Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture:

Penn State Research:

AgLaw HotLinks:
“Dairy Producers Receive a Boost from USDA” – U.S. Department of Agriculture
“Dairy farming is dying. After 40 years, I’m done.” – The Washington Post           

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