Thursday, January 24, 2019

Agricultural Law Weekly Review—January 24, 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:

Industrial Hemp/Cannabis: Pennsylvania’s Re-Opens Industrial Hemp Program to Allow Commercial Growing Operations
On January 22, 2019, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) announced that the department is re-opening the commonwealth’s 2019 industrial hemp program so as to include applications for commercial growing operations.  The re-opening of the program follows the recent passage of the federal 2018 Farm Bill which, according to Pennsylvania Agricultural Secretary Russell Redding, includes “language removing industrial hemp from regulation under the Controlled Substances Act, and provid[es] for commercial production of industrial hemp.” Previously, industrial hemp growing permits were only available to institutions of higher education or to persons contracted with the department to grow industrial hemp for research purposes.  PDA also announced, that under the re-opened program, there will no longer be a cap on the number of applications accepted by the department for 2019.

Industrial Hemp/Cannabis: Senators Request Update from FDA over Hemp-Derived Products
On January 16, 2019, Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley sent a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) seeking that the agency update federal regulations governing the use of certain hemp-derived products.  According to the senators, the Hemp Farming Act, which passed as part of the 2018 Farm Bill, legalized the production and sale of industrial hemp and hemp derivatives such as hemp-derived cannabidiol.  The senators assert, however, that action is needed by FDA because current regulations still prohibit the sale of hemp-based products across state lines.

Agricultural Finance: USDA to Re-open FSA Offices During Government Shutdown
On January 22, 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that despite the federal government shutdown, all Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices nationwide will re-open on January 24, 2019.  The services provided by FSA, however, will be limited to those determined “critical” by USDA.  According to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, “FSA provides vital support for farmers and ranchers and they count on those services being available.  We want to offer as much assistance as possible until the partial government shutdown is resolved.” Additionally, Secretary Perdue announced that the application deadline for farmers seeking payments under the Market Facilitation Program, as provided by the trade mitigation program, has been extended to February 14, 2019.  Previously, farmers had until January 15, 2019 to apply to USDA for payments to offset retaliatory tariffs imposed by foreign nations.

Organic Agriculture: Action Filed to Prohibit Labeling of Hydroponics as Organic
On January 16, 2019, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) announced that it had filed an action demanding that the U.S. Department of Agriculture prohibit the labeling of hydroponic products as organic.  According to CFS, because hydroponic agriculture is a food production method that does not use soil, it cannot comply with organic requirements regarding soil standards.  CFS stated that “Hydroponic production systems are fundamentally different from organic production systems as defined by federal law—they do not promote soil health or conserve biodiversity.” CFS asserted that this failure to comply with soil requirements is a violation of the mandatory National Organic Program standards.  

Food Policy: Canada Issues New Food Guidelines
On January 22, 2019, CBC reported that for the first time since 2007, the Canadian government has issued new food guidelines.  According to the report, Canada’s food guidelines, which are primarily taught in schools and promoted by health professionals, no longer focus on food groups and recommended servings.  Instead, an emphasis is placed on eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and plant-based proteins.  Additionally, individuals are warned to limit processed foods and avoid sugars beverages.  Finally, the guidelines encourage healthy eating habits such as cooking more often and eating meals together.    

From National Ag Law Experts:
“Ohio Department of Agriculture: New Director Changes Course of Watersheds in Distress Rulemaking”, Evin Bachelor, Ohio Agricultural Law Blog, Ohio State University Extension (January 16, 2019)
“Trade”, John R. Block, Ag/FDA Blog – Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz PC (January 16, 2019)
“New Shutdown Contingency Plan Means Some IRS Services Resume”, Kristine A. Tidgren, The Ag Docket – Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation (January 15, 2019)

Pennsylvania Actions and Notices:
Milk Marketing Board

Penn State Research:

AgLaw HotLinks:

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