Thursday, July 25, 2019

Agricultural Law Weekly Review—July 25, 2019

Written by:
M. Sean High—Staff Attorney
Audry Thompson—Research Assistant
The following information is an update of recent local, state, national, and international legal developments relevant to agriculture:

Pesticides: Court Reduces Jury Award in Roundup Case
On July 17, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California reduced a jury damage award regarding the herbicide Roundup from over $80 million to over $25 million (Hardeman v Monsanto Company, 3:16-cv-00525).  Previously, a jury found that plaintiff Edwin Hardeman’s non-Hodgkin's lymphoma was caused by Monsanto’s glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup.  According to the jury, Monsanto had negligently failed to warm Mr. Hardeman of the risks associated with Roundup.  As a result, Mr. Hardeman was awarded $5,267,634.10 in compensatory damages and $75,000,000 in punitive damages.  The court ruled, however, that while “[t]he jury’s decision to award punitive damages is reasonable and well…the size of the award…is constitutionally impermissible.”  The court stated that California law limits punitive damages to four times the compensatory damage award.  Since the compensatory damage amount was approximately $5 million, the court awarded punitive damages of $20 million instead of $75 million.

Agricultural Labor: New York Governor Signs Farm Laborer Fair Labor Practices Act
On July 17, 2019, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act (A8419).  The legislation, which grants collective bargaining rights to farm laborers, amends the state’s current labor law to provide farm workers with twenty-four consecutive hours of rest every week and overtime at one and a half times the normal rate for time worked in excess of sixty hours per week.  Additionally, the Act allows farm workers to receive workers’ compensation and disability benefits, requires reporting of employment-related injuries, and guarantees the application of sanitary codes in farm worker housing.  In signing the legislation, Governor Cuomo stated, “By signing this bill into law, 100,000 farmers and their families will have better lives and will finally have the same protections that other workers have enjoyed for over 80 years.”

Food Policy: USDA Proposes New SNAP Rule Limiting Automatic Eligibility for Recipients 
On July 24, 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published notice in the Federal Register of a proposed rule limiting automatic eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)  (84 FR 35570).  In order to attain automatic eligibility for SNAP under the new rule, a household must receive a minimum of $50 per month in cash or non-cash benefits for at least six months under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.  Additionally, the non-cash benefits capable of conveying automatic eligibility are restricted to subsidized employment, work supports, and childcare.  For more information about the rule proposal and SNAP, see the USDA’s fact sheet and SNAP websiteComments may be submitted by mail, email, or online before September 23, 2019. 

Food Policy: USDA Awards $5.1 Million in SNAP Fraud Reduction Grants
On July 16, 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced $5.1 million in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Fraud Framework Grants awarded to several state SNAP agencies to fund fraud reduction efforts.  The grants are intended to help states administer elements of the SNAP Fraud Framework, which includes multiple areas of focus to improve state oversight to identify and prevent fraud.  Such areas of focus include: organizational management, data management, educational initiatives, and fraud detection.  The two-year grants were allocated for new projects proposed by state SNAP agencies that implement key aspects of the framework. 

Food Labeling: Suit Brought Against Tyson Foods Regarding Marketing and Advertising Claims
On July 17, 2019, Food & Water Watch (FWW) and the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) brought suit against Tyson Foods, Inc. (Tyson) in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia for allegedly violating the Consumer Protection Procedures Act regarding the company’s marketing and advertising of its chicken products (Food and Water Watch v. Tyson Foods, 2019 CA 004547 B).  According to the groups, Tyson markets and advertises that it “employs environmentally responsible and humane production practices.”  FWW and OCA assert, however, that that these claims are false and misleading because “Tyson and its contractors systematically breed, hatch, raise, transport, and slaughter chickens in environmentally harmful and inhumane, disease-ridden factory-farm conditions.”  According to the complaint, FWW and OCA do not request monetary damages, but rather they seek an end to what they believe to be deceptive marketing and advertising practices. 

From National Ag Law Experts:
“Considerations for Operating Agreements”, Shannon Ferrell, Professor, Oklahoma State University, National Agricultural Law Center (July 9, 2019)
“Groundwater as a Point Source?”, Brianna J. Schroeder, Schroeder Ag Law Blog – Janzen Ag Law (July 18, 2019)
Federal Actions and Notices:
Agricultural Marketing Service

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

Environmental Protection Agency

Food and Drug Administration

Food and Nutrition Service

Rural Business-Cooperative Service

Pennsylvania Actions and Notices:
Milk Marketing Board

Penn State Research:

AgLaw HotLinks:

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