Thursday, August 22, 2019

Agricultural Law Weekly Review—August 22, 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:

Right to Farm Laws: Missouri CAFO Closes Following Nuisance Lawsuits
On August 19, 2019, Valley Oaks Steak Co. announced that the Missouri-based company was closing operations due to numerous lawsuits following a proposed expansion of a concentrated feeding operation (CAFO).  Previously, on July 30, 2019, the law firm of Humphrey, Farrington & McClain (HFM) announced that 141 property owners had filed suit in the Jackson County Circuit Court regarding a proposed CAFO expansion located in Lone Jack, Missouri.  According to HFM, the CAFO—which is owned by Valley Oaks Steak Co.—has been in operation since 2016.  HMF stated that Valley Oaks Steak Co. was seeking to increase the CAFO’s annual average of 999 head of cattle to an annual average of up to 6,999 head of cattle.  HFM alleged that the 141 property owners were currently being affected by the CAFO’s odors and that an expansion of the operation would cause the nuisance to worsen.  HMF asserted that the 141 property owners were seeking “punitive damages and a jury trial.”  Additionally, Valley Oaks Steak Co. was engaged in separate litigation with Powell Gardens—a botanical garden located in Kansas City—which had received a temporary injunction in 2018 in Jackson County Circuit Court to prevent the CAFO expansion.  According to Powell Gardens, the proposed expansion would have caused “irreparable harm to its 970 acres of gardens and thousands of species of plants.”  Valley Oaks Steak Co. stated that while the company “looked forward to having our day in court,” economic factors prevented the company from continuing operations.

Organic Agriculture: Conspirators Sentenced for Organic Grain Fraud
On August 19, 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that sentencing had been handed-out to four men previously convicted of conspiring to falsely sell nonorganic grain as organic.  According to DOJ, from 2010 to 2017, Randy Constant sold $142,433,475 of nonorganic grain as organic grain.  The grain in question was used primarily for animal feed.  The affected animals and their products were subsequently sold as organic products.  DOJ stated that Mr. Constant was sentenced to more than ten years in prison and ordered to forfeit $128,190,128 from the proceeds of the sales.  Additionally, three farmers that supplied Mr. Constant with the nonorganic grain were sentenced for their role in the scheme.  According to DOJ, Mike Potter was sentenced to 24 months imprisonment, James Brennan was sentenced to 20 months imprisonment, and Tom Brennan was sentenced to three months imprisonment.  Each of the three farmers was ordered to forfeit $1 million in proceeds from the fraudulent sales.

Animal Welfare: APHIS Announces Funds for Animal Disease Prevention and Management
On August 12, 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced its intention for the use of animal health resources allocated under the 2018 Farm Bill.  First, resources will be used to create a National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank.  This vaccine bank will allow USDA to stockpile animal vaccines to combat “high-impact foreign animal diseases.”  Second, resources will be used to create a National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program.  This program will permit APHIS to issue grants to stakeholders for projects designed to prevent pests and diseases from entering the U.S.  Finally, resources will be used to expand the existing National Animal Health Laboratory Network.  These additional funds are intended to facilitate the rapid detection of foreign animal pests and diseases. 

Crop Insurance: USDA to Defer Accrual of Interest for Crop Insurance Premiums
On August 15, 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA) announced the deferral of the accrual of interest on spring 2019 crop insurance premiums.  According to the announcement, “USDA will defer the accrual of interest on spring 2019 crop year insurance premiums to the earlier of the applicable termination date or for two months, until November 30, for all policies with a premium billing date of August 15, 2019. For any premium that is not paid by one of those new deadlines, interest will accrue consistent with the terms of the policy.”  RMA stated that the change is intended to help farmers and ranchers who have experienced crop difficulties due to flooding and excessive moisture.  According to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, “USDA recognizes that farmers and ranchers have been severely affected by the extreme weather challenges this year…To help ease the burden on these folks, we are continuing to extend flexibility for producers with today’s announcement.”

International Trade: Canada to Provide $1.75B to Dairy Farmers Affected by Trade
On August 16, 2019, Canadian Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau announced that over the next eight years, Canadian dairy farmers will receive $1.75 billion in federal compensation.  The move is designed to help the nation’s dairy farmers affect by the recently ratified Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.  Under the announced compensation, “$345 million will be paid in the first year, in the form of direct payments and will benefit all dairy producers in proportion to their quota held.”  Minister Bibeau stated, “Today’s announcement shows how much our government respects our producers and believes in the supply management system. As promised, the compensation is deployed fully and fairly to allow everyone to make the best decisions based on the new market realities and their respective situation.”

From National Ag Law Experts:
“Congress Passes Bill to Increase Chapter 12 Debt Limit”, Kristine A. Tidgren, The Ag Docket – Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation (August 1, 2019)   
“Regenerative Agriculture and Livestock”,  Brianna J. Schroeder, Schroeder Ag Law Blog – Janzen Ag Law (July 26, 2019)
Federal Actions and Notices:
Rural Housing Service

Pennsylvania Case Law:
Com. of PA v. J. Bucher - 641 C.D. 2018: Court overturned conviction that Defendant was harboring dangerous dog—evidence did not support that dog had propensity to attack without provocation.

Pennsylvania Legislation:
SB 827: Legislation regarding municipal authority to regulate the time, manner and location of consumer fireworks (Referred to Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, August 15, 2019)
HB 1744: Legislation regarding the regulation of lemonade stands run by minors on private property (Referred to House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, August 16, 2019)
HB 1755: Legislation regarding State Conservation Commission reporting (Referred to House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, August 16, 2019)

Pennsylvania Actions and Notices:
The General Assembly

Department of Environmental Protection

Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture:

Penn State Research:

AgLaw HotLinks:

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