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:
WOTUS: Proposed WOTUS Rule Published for Public Comment
On February 14, 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Army published notice in the Federal Register of a proposed rule defining the scope of waters federally regulated under the Clean Water Act (84 FR 4154). With the published notice, members of the public have until April 15, 2019 to submit comments on the proposed definition. If enacted, the proposal would replace the controversial definition previously issued by the agencies on June 29, 2015. For more information on the proposed rule, see the EPA’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rulemaking website.
Pennsylvania Agricultural Policy: Governor Announces “PA Farm Bill”
On February 15, 2019, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced a proposed “PA Farm Bill” designed to provide investment in Pennsylvania’s agricultural sector. According to Governor Wolf, “[t]he PA Farm Bill allocates $24 million in additional funding to chart a real path for a dynamic and prosperous farming economy in Pennsylvania. It’s about providing more opportunities to our farmers by creating more jobs, more income, and more hope.” The PA Farm Bill seeks to accomplish its goals through: (1) developing new resources for agriculture business development and succession planning; (2) creating more processing capabilities; (3) removing regulatory burdens and strengthening the state’s agricultural business climate; (4) increasing opportunities for Pennsylvania’s agricultural workforce; (5) protecting agricultural infrastructure; and (6) increasing market opportunities and making Pennsylvania the nation’s leading organic state.
Pesticides: Lawsuit Claims Roundup Harmed Home Gardeners Gut Bacteria
On February 13, 2019, Bloomberg reported that a lawsuit has been filed in a Missouri federal court alleging that the healthy gut bacteria of home gardeners were harmed as a result of the pesticide Roundup. According to the report, the home gardener plaintiffs assert that they were deceived by labels on Roundup which assured consumers that the products were not harmful to humans or pets. The plaintiffs allege, however, that “Roundup’s active ingredient glyphosate attacks an enzyme also found in the beneficial intestinal bacteria of humans and some animals.” According to Bloomberg, research has linked an unhealthy microbiome to both obesity and depression.
Rural Policy: USDA Issues American Broadband Initiative Milestones Report
On February 13, 2019, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross released the American Broadband Initiative Milestones Report February 2019. The report provides a vision for how the federal government can increase broadband access; especially in rural America. Accordingly, the report’s recommendations include: appropriating $600 million for an innovative broadband pilot program; targeting areas of need and providing incentives for state and local policies; leveraging federal assets such as towers, buildings, and land to lower the cost of broadband buildouts; and streamlining federal permitting.
Antibiotics: Report Asserts Worldwide Change in Antibiotic Use in Animals
On February 14, 2019, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) announced a report asserting that global antimicrobial use in animals has declined. The report presents OIE’s findings from its third annual data collection which analyzed results from 2015 to 2017. According to OIE, since the last time data was collected, the use of antimicrobials for growth promotion declined from 60 to 45 countries. OIE stated that 155 countries participated in the organization’s data collection efforts.
From National Ag Law Experts:
“The National Bioengineered GMO Food Disclosure Standard”, Sarah Everhart, Maryland Risk Management Education Blog (February 12, 2019)
“Optimism”, John R Block, Ag/FDA Blog – Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz PC (February 14, 2019)
“Future of Tax Extender Legislation Uncertain”, Kristine A. Tidgren, The Ag Docket – Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation (February 17, 2019)
Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture:
: Legislation further providing for purchase of agricultural conservation easements (Reported out of House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, first consideration by House February 20, 2019)
: Legislation designating “Tree of Heaven” a noxious weed (Reported out of House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, first consideration by House, February 20, 2019)
: Legislation to allow wind energy on farmland preservation (Reported out of House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, first consideration by House, February 20, 2019)
Pennsylvania Actions and Notices:
Department of Agriculture
Milk Marketing Board
Penn State Research:
“Penn State Berks center supports spotted lanternfly research” – Penn State News
“America has a farm labor shortage. We need a better guest worker program” – Los Angeles Times
“'Big data' could help improve livestock resilience” – Feedstuffs
“Food finally features in the climate debate. Now what?” – World Economic Forum
“Germany: Voters abuzz over bee referendum” – Morning AgClips
“New study: Pesticide levels in children and adults drop dramatically after one week of eating organic” – Friends of the Earth
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