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 Policy: 6 States and D.C. Sue USDA Over Changes to School Nutrition Programs
On April 3, 2019, attorneys general from six states and the District of Columbia filed suit in the U.S. Dist. Court Southern Dist. of New York alleging that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) failed to provide the pubic an opportunity for comment before lowering federal nutritional standards for school breakfast and lunches (New York v. USDA, Previously, on December 12, 2018, USDA published a final rule that provided schools new options under the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, and other federal child nutrition programs ( ). The new rule allowed schools the ability to offer flavored, low-fat milk; required that half of the weekly grains in the school lunch and breakfast menu be whole grain-rich; and granted schools more time to reduce sodium levels in school meals. According to the attorneys general, USDA failed to give the public notice and an opportunity to comment on the 2018 changes to the school nutrition regulations, as required by the Administrative Procedure Act.).
Food Policy: USDA, EPA, and FDA Release Plan to Reduce Food Waste
On April 9, 2019, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a federal interagency strategy intended to reduce food waste. According to the agencies, more than one-third of all available food in the U.S. is uneaten due to loss or waste. As a result, USDA, EPA, and FDA announced a plan entitled: Winning on Reducing Food Waste FY 2019-2020 Federal Interagency Strategy. Under the plan, the agencies will work together to reduce food waste through: (1) coordinating interagency efforts; (2) providing consumer education; (3) providing guidance on food loss and waste measurement; (4) providing information on food safety, food date labels, and food donations; (5) engaging with private industry; and (6) encouraging food waste reduction in USDA, EPA, and FDA facilities.
Agricultural Labor: USDA Announces New H-2A Visa Checklist Tool
On April 3, 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the availability of a new online resource designed to help agricultural employers better understand the H-2A visa program. The new resource, known as the H-2A Visa Checklist Tool, is intended to guide interested individual through a series of questions and answers and provides information regarding the H-2A visa program’s timeline, requirements, fees, and forms. According to USDA, the resource allows an employer to obtain information for their specific H-2A hiring needs and the ability to print or download a checklist for future reference.
Rural Policy: Lawmakers Request Funds to Expand Broadband Internet Access to Rural America
On April 8, 2019, U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) issued a letter to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development leadership requesting funding to expand rural broadband internet connectivity. According to the representatives, Congress appropriated $600 million in fiscal year (FY) 2018 and $550 million in FY2019 for a pilot broadband loan and grant program which later became known as the ReConnect Rural Broadband Program. The representatives now seek $550 million in appropriations for the ReConnect Rural Broadband Program for FY2020. Additionally, the representatives requested $350 million in separate funding for the broadband loan and grant program authorized by Congress under the 2018 Farm Bill.
Rural Policy: USDA to Invest $485M in Rural Electric Systems
On April 8, 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it will be providing $485 million in financing to upgrade rural electric systems. USDA stated that the funding will provide nearly $7.1 million for smart grid technologies and will assist in the building or improvement of 2,635 miles of line. According to USDA, the funding will be provided through the Electric Loan Program and will be used to benefit rural areas in Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin.
Farm Bill: Coalition Asks Congress to Fund Farm Bill’s Urban Agriculture Programs
On April 8, 2019, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA)—along with a coalition of national, state, and local organizations—announced that it had sent a letter to Congress urging funding for urban agriculture. The letter stated that the 2018 Farm Bill authorized: (1) the creation of the Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production and (2) an urban agriculture data initiative. Accordingly, NASDA—and its coalition of organizations—requested that the fiscal year 2020 appropriations bill include $25 million for the Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production and $14 million for the urban agriculture data collection data initiative. In stressing the importance of such funding, the letter asserted that urban agriculture benefits communities through improved biodiversity, greater access to nutritious foods, and increased green space.
From National Ag Law Experts:
, Todd Janzen, Janzen Ag Law Blog – Janzen Ag Law (April 3, 2019)
, Kristine A. Tidgren, The Ag Docket – Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation (March 28, 2019)
Federal Actions and Notices:
Food and Drug Administration
Food and Nutrition Service
Food Safety and Inspection Service
Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture:
: Legislation to allow for the adoption of retired research animals (Referred to Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, April 8, 2019)
: Legislation to expand access to the Farmers’ Market Development Program (Referred to Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, April 5, 2019)
Pennsylvania Actions and Notices:
Department of Agriculture
Milk Marketing Board
Penn State Research:
– Penn State News
– MIT News
– Choices Magazine
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