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:
Agricultural Labor: DHS Increases Number of H-2B Temporary Nonagricultural Workers for 2019
On May 8, 2019, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published notice in the Federal Register that the department is increasing the numerical limit on H-2B nonimmigrant visas by an additional 30,000 visas through the end of Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 (84 FR 20005). Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, the annual number of H-2B nonimmigrant visas for temporary nonagricultural workers is capped at 66,000. Accordingly, 33,000 H-2B visas are allotted to the first half of each fiscal year (October 1 to March 31) and 33,000 H-2B visas to the second half of each fiscal year (April 1 to September 30). Recently, due to high demand, 15,000 additional H-2B visas were awarded for both FY 2017 and FY 2018. DHS stated that the additional 30,000 H-2B visas for FY 2019 are necessary to avoid irreparable harm to businesses that need H-2B workers for financial viability.
Pennsylvania Legislation: PA Senate Passes “Farming First” Legislation
On May 8, 2019, the Pennsylvania Senate passed five pieces of legislation, known collectively as the “Farming First” package, intended to strengthen the Commonwealth’s agricultural sector. First, legislation was passed providing a personal income tax credit for landowners who lease or sell their land, buildings and equipment to beginning farmers (SB 478). The legislation now moves to the House Finance Committee. Second, legislation was passed to establish the Pennsylvania Dairy Future Commission (SB 585). The purpose of the Commission would be to review and make recommendations designed to promote and strengthen Pennsylvania’s dairy industry. The legislation now moves to the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee. Third, legislation was passed providing that agritourism activities are to be treated as part of agriculture authorized on farms preserved under the state’s farmland preservation program (SB 583). The legislation now moves to the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee. Fourth, legislation was passed amending the Vehicle Code to allow milk haulers to travel on highways during a declaration of disaster emergency (SB 588). The legislation now moves to the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee. Fifth, legislation was passed exempting certain barns—and other structures—used as wedding or special event venues from Uniform Construction Code requirements SB 0453). The legislation now moves to the House Labor and Industry Committee.
Pennsylvania Legislation: PA House Committee Passes Agricultural Legislation
On May 7, 2019, the Pennsylvania House Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee passed three agricultural bills out of committee. First, legislation was passed to amend the Retail Food Facility Safety chapter of the Agriculture Code so as to define the term “mobile retail food facilities” and to consolidate mobile food vendor fees (HB 671). Next, legislation was passed to amend the Pennsylvania Construction Code Act to clarify the legal status of wedding barns that meet fire and safety standards (HB 1037). Finally, legislation was passed to exempt Dog Law fines, fees, and costs from being transferred to the Judicial Computer System Augmentation Account (HB 1277). All three pieces of legislation now move to the full House for consideration.
Food Labeling: Oklahoma Governor Signs Meat Labeling Law
On April 26, 2019, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed into law legislation that prohibits the deceptive advertising or selling of mislabeled meat products (SB392). Under the law, the term “meat” is restricted to “any edible portion of livestock, poultry or captive cervid carcass or part thereof.” Though the legislation makes no reference to cell-cultured or plant-based products, if such products cannot meet the laws definition, they would not be permitted to be advertised or labeled as “meat.”
Rural Policy: USDA Releases Rural Broadband Report
On April 30, 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the release of a report entitled: A Case for Rural Broadband: Insights on Rural Broadband Infrastructure and Next Generation Precision Agriculture Technologies. According to the report, a significant high-speed internet infrastructure gap exists between urban and rural areas. The report asserted that if the rural internet infrastructure is brought-up to meet estimated producer demand, the increased use of precision agriculture would result in a significant growth in overall U.S. agriculture production.
FSMA: FDA Withdraws Outdated Animal Food Compliance Policy Guides
On April 30, 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the withdraw of three outdated Compliance Policy Guides (CPGs) pertaining to the use of certain animal-derived materials in animal food. According to FDA, CPG Sec. 675.400 – Rendered Animal Feed Ingredients and CPG Sec. 690.300 – Canned Pet Food were withdrawn because of the additional regulatory tools available under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. Additionally, CPG Sec. 690.500 – Uncooked Meat for Animal Food was withdrawn because it merely restated the adulteration provision of section 402(a)(5) of the FD&C Act. The three CPGs were originally issued in 1979-80.
From National Ag Law Experts:
“Spring 2019”, John R. Block, Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz PC (May 2, 2019)
“Have dicamba drift damage here’s what you can do”, Paul Goeringer, Maryland Risk Management Education Blog (April 30, 2019)
Federal Actions and Notices:
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
Environmental Protection Agency
Farm Credit Administration
Rural Utilities Service
“Announcement of Loan Applications Procedures and Deadlines for the Rural Energy Savings Program (RESP); Update”
HB 1345: Legislation to prohibit the practice of pet leasing (Referred to House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, May 6, 2019)
HB 1348: Legislation providing agritourism businesses with limited liability protection (Referred to House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, May 1, 2019)
Penn State Research:
“'Right' cover-crop mix good for both Chesapeake and bottom lines” – Penn State News
“Beyond Meat debuts as year's top U.S. IPO”—Feedstuffs
“USDA Accepting Applications to Help Cover Producers’ Costs for Organic Certification” – USDA Farm Service Agency
“Robotic weeders are racing to replace glyphosate and dicamba” – The New Food Economy
“Invasive fish threatens endangered mussels in Pa.” – Farm and Dairy
“Iowa egg farm sues over damages from bird flu disinfection after 2015's deadly H5N2 outbreak” – Des Moines Register
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