Friday, October 11, 2019

Agricultural Law Weekly Review - September 19, 2019

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

WOTUS: EPA Repeals 2015 Rule Defining “Waters of the United States” 
On September 12, 2019, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced the repeal of the 2015 Clean Water Act rule defining “waters of the United States” (WOTUS).  According to EPA, the repeal of the 2015 rule is the first step in its two-step approach to redefine WOTUS and clearly distinguish between federally regulated and state-controlled waters.  For the second step, EPA proposed a new WOTUS definition in December 2018 (84 FR 4154).  The final rule will become active after 60 days once published in the Federal Register.  For further explanation of “waters of the United States,” see the March 7, 2017 and January 2, 2019 Agricultural Law in the Spotlight articles, Executive Order on the “Waters of the United States” Rule and U.S. EPA and Army Corps of Engineers Issue Proposed Revised Definition of “Waters of the United States.”

Food Safety: USDA Announces Swine Slaughter Inspection Final Rule
On September 17, 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the final rule, Modernization of Swine Slaughter Inspection The purpose of the final rule is to “improve the effectiveness of market hog slaughter inspections” and to reduce pathogens in pork food products.  The final rule allows market hog slaughter facilities to choose whether to operate under the New Swine Slaughter Inspection System (NSIS) or continue to use the existing system.  Facilities choosing to operate under NSIS must create and maintain new procedures in their Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) systems. According to the announcement, all swine slaughterhouses will have new microbial testing requirements.  The final rule also revises sampling requirements for small establishments.

Water Quality: Iowa Court Allows Stormwater Pollution Case to Move Forward 
On September 10, 2019, the Iowa District Court for Polk County denied a motion to dismiss in a lawsuit involving pollution in the Raccoon River (Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, et al., v. State of Iowa, et al., Case No. EQCE084330).  The plaintiffs, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Food & Water Watch, filed this suit alleging that Iowa has failed to protect the state’s waterways from pollution. They argue that the nitrate pollution from fertilizer pollutes the Raccoon River, affecting drinking water and recreation activities.  The plaintiffs are asking the state to issue a remedial plan with pollution controls. The plaintiffs also would like the court to prohibit the construction of new animal feeding operations.  The state argued that the plaintiffs lacked standing and that the claims constitute a political question. The court agreed with the plaintiffs and denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss. 

Food Labeling: Government Accountability Office Releases Report on Food Label Dates
On September 9, 2019, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on food label dates, Date Labels on Packaged Foods, USDA and FDA Could Take Additional Steps to Reduce Consumer Confusion.  The purpose of the report was to examine how USDA and FDA address consumer confusion over date labeling on food packages. According to GAO, 133 billion pounds of food is lost or wasted each year, and consumer confusion may be responsible for part of this waste.  GAO recommends that USDA and FDA should collaborate with nonfederal stakeholders, such as state, local, and tribal governments. GAO suggests that this additional coordination will help ensure that methods to reduce consumer confusion will be more effective. 

National Agricultural Policy: White House Declares National Farm Safety and Health Week
On September 13, 2019, the White House issued the Presidential Proclamation on National Farm Safety and Health Week, 2019.  The proclamation declared the National Farm Safety and Health Week (Farm Safety Week) for September 15 through September 21, 2019.  According to the proclamation, there were 581 work-related deaths for agricultural workers in 2017.  The purpose of Farm Safety Week will be to raise awareness of the dangers of agricultural work in order to improve safety practices. The proclamation was published in the Federal Register on September 17, 2019. 

From National Ag Law Experts:
Juliette Majot, Climate change and a new agricultural system (August 8, 2019)
Karen Hansen-Kuhn, Mexico’s move toward food self-sufficiency confronts GMOs (September 2, 2019) 

Federal Actions and Notices:
Agricultural Marketing Service

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

Executive Office of the President

Farm Credit Administration

Farm Credit System Insurance Corporation

Food and Drug Administration
Susquehanna River Basin Commission

Pennsylvania Actions and Notices:
Department of Environmental Protection

Milk Marketing Board:

Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture:

Penn State Research:

Follow us on Twitter at PSU Ag & Shale Law (@AgShaleLaw) to receive AgLaw HotLinks:
Hemp Farmers Face $7.5b in Losses (Sept. 13, 2019)
Report: US Organic Acres Set Record” (Sept. 12, 2019)

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Review last month’s biggest legal developments in agriculture in the August 2019 Agricultural Law BriefIf you’d like to receive this update via email, check out our website and subscribe!

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