Thursday, February 14, 2019

Agricultural Law Weekly Review—February 14, 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:

Food Labeling: Groups Sue Pilgrim's Pride Over Marketing and Advertising Claims  
On February 7, 2019, Food & Water Watch and the Organic Consumers Association announced that the organizations have filed a lawsuit in the D.C. Superior Court against Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation for alleged deceptive marketing and advertising practices.  According to the two organizations, Pilgrim’s Pride markets and advertises that its birds are fed “only natural ingredients,” are “treated humanely,” and that the company’s poultry products are “produced in an environmentally responsible way.” Food & Water Watch and the Organic Consumers Association assert, however, that these claims violate the Consumer Protection Procedures Act because Pilgrim’s Pride routinely uses antibiotics, synthetic chemical disinfectants, genetically modified crops, and growth promoting drugs. 

Food Labeling: Lawsuit Settled Regarding Missouri Meat Labeling Law
On February 12, 2019, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported a settlement regarding a challenge to Missouri’s law restricting the labeling of “meat” products.  According to the report, under Missouri law, only products “derived from an actual cow, chicken, turkey or some other animal with two or four feet” may be marketed as meat.  As a result, the ACLU and the makers of plant-based meat products sued alleging that the law violated free speech rights under the First Amendment.  The report stated that the details of the settlement are still being processed and should be announced sometime in March.

WOTUS: EPA Announces Public Hearing for Proposed Revised Definition of WOTUS
The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of the Army announced that on February 27 and February 28, 2019, the agencies will hold a public hearing regarding a proposed rule revising the definition of “waters of the United States.” The public meeting will be held in Kansas City, Kansas, and will provide the public the opportunity to present data, information, or views regarding the proposed rule.  The pre-publication version of the proposed rule can be found at  The comment period on the proposed rule will end 60 days after notice of the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register

Seed Law: Monsanto Wins Royalty Ruling Over Indian Seed Company
On February 11, 2019, Reuters reported that Bayer AG Monsanto has won an arbitration ruling involving a royalty dispute with Indian seed maker Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd (NSL).  According to Reuters, NSL had previously sold genetically modified cotton seeds under a license agreement with Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (MMB), a joint venture between Monsanto and India’s Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co.  In 2015, however, NSL and its affiliates decided to stop paying royalties to MMB asserting that Monsanto’s genetically modified cotton seeds were not entitled to patent protection under India law.  Reuters stated that while the results of the arbitral award is confidential, Monsanto had previously calculated that NSL and its two affiliates owed about $22.82 million to MMB.

Raw Milk: CDC Links Brucellosis Exposure to Raw Milk from PA Farm
On February 8, 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced possible Brucella strain RB51 (RB51) exposure due to the consumption of raw milk from a Pennsylvania dairy farm.  In November 2018, a New York resident, who drank raw milk purchased from Miller’s Biodiversity Farm in Quarryville, Pennsylvania, was diagnosed with brucellosis.  Subsequently, milk samples from Miller’s Biodiversity Farm tested positive for RB51.  According to CDC, as of January 22, 2019, investigators have determined that people in Alabama, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Virginia have bought or consumed raw milk from Miller’s Biodiversity Farm.  CDC stated that anyone who has consumed raw milk or raw milk products from Miller’s Biodiversity Farm since January 2016 may have been exposed to RB51 and should consult their doctor.  Additionally, CDC advised that any raw milk or raw milk products acquired from Miller’s Biodiversity Farm should be discarded.

From National Ag Law Experts:
“New Lake Erie lawsuit filed against U.S. EPA”, Evin Bachelor, Ohio Agricultural Law Blog, Ohio State University Extension (February 13, 2019)
“Swimming in Deep water with Government Sharks”, Patrick B. Dillon, Dillon Law P.C. Blog (January 22, 2019)
“Do Farmers Still Care About Ag Data Privacy?”, Todd Janzen, Janzen Ag Law Blog – Janzen Ag Law (January 21, 2019)  

Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture:

Pennsylvania Legislation:
SB 256: Legislation expanding the use of mushroom compost (Referred to Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, February 7, 2019)
HB 441: Legislation to allow wind energy on farmland preservation (Referred to House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, February 11, 2019)
HB 453: Legislation regulating the sale of certain expired foods, over the counter drugs, and cosmetics (Referred to House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, February 11, 2019)
HB 404: Legislation designating “Tree of Heaven” a noxious weed (Referred to House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, February 6, 2019)

Pennsylvania Actions and Notices:
Environmental Quality Board

Penn State Research:

AgLaw HotLinks:
“The state of the USDA: A quiet dismantling” – Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

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