Monday, January 18, 2021

Agricultural Law Weekly Review—week ending January 8, 2021

Written by:  Audry Thompson—Research Assistant 

Brook Duer—Staff Attorney 

Penn State Law’s Center for Agricultural and Shale Law publishes the Agricultural Law Weekly Review as an informative update on agricultural law developments from across the region, nation and internationally.  Visit our new website at where you can subscribe to this update or our other recurring publications or podcasts.

COVID-19: USDA Announces Fifth Round of Food Box Purchases 

On January 4, 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a fifth round of food purchases of $1.5 billion for the Farmers to Families Food Box Program.  The funding for this fifth round was provided through the COVID-19 relief funding legislation signed into law on December 27, 2020, the Consolidated Appropriations Act (see “$900 Billion Appropriations Act Includes $13 Billion in COVID-19 Relief for Agriculture,” ALWR—week ending January 1, 2021).  USDA will solicit offers from more than 240 suppliers with previous Basic Ordering Agreements (BOA) and issue awards by January 19, 2021.  USDA states that it will amend the BOA to include pre-cooked seafood products, which may now be combined with pre-cooked beef, pork, chicken, and turkey, along with egg products, to satisfy descriptive weight designations.  USDA has also specified that, in addition to cheddar and other previously specified cheeses, the food boxes may contain “other hard, semi-firm, [and] semi-soft cheese,” including Blue, Brick, Colby, Edam, Gorgonzola, Gouda, Gruyere, Monterey, Muenster, Parmesan, Provolone and Romano.  Food box deliveries will begin after contract awards are issued and will continue through April 2021.  

Biofuels: Supreme Court to Hear Small-Refinery Exemption Appeal 

On January 8, 2021, the Supreme Court of the United States granted a petition for writ of certiorari to hear an appeal of a January 24, 2020 decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit which invalidated the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) grant of renewable fuel standard (RFS) small refinery exemptions.  HollyFrontier Cheyenne Refining, LLC, et al., Petitioners v. Renewable Fuels Association, et al., No. 20-472. (For background on the Circuit Court’s decision, see “Court of Appeals Invalidates EPA Grant of Renewable Fuel Standard Waivers,” ALWR—January 30, 2020.  The petroleum refiners who filed the petition seek determination from the court of whether a small refinery must have been granted “uninterrupted, continuous [RFS] hardship exemptions” for each year dating back to 2011 in order to receive a current hardship exemption from the renewable fuel standards.  The court also granted leave to The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers and Countrymark Refining and Logistics, LLC to file amicus briefs.  Oral argument dates have yet to be set.  

Crop Insurance: COVID-19 Crop Insurance Accommodations Extended

On December 30, 2020, USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) announced extended deadlines for various crop insurance requirements in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Specifically, the ability of Approved Insurance Providers (AIP) and agents to send electronic notifications and utilize digital signatures with policyholders for sales closing,  production reporting, and acreage reporting deadlines has been extended through July 15, 2021.  Also, the accommodations for organic certification allowing reporting of certified organic acreage, replant self-certification (increasing the acreage of self-certification replant inspections from 50 to 100), and assignment of indemnity (allowing use of digital signatures and waiving witness requirements) have been extended through June 30, 2021.  Additionally, producer signatures may be accepted after the expiration date until August 2, 2021.  

National Agricultural Policy: New Legislation Establishes Ag Interest Representation on Drone Advisory Committee 

On December 31, 2020, S.2730, known as the “Drone Advisory Committee for the 21st Century Act” was signed into law.  The law establishes that the thirty-five member Drone Advisory Committee “should [include] to the extent practicable. . . direct representatives from county and tribal government, agriculture, forestry. . . rangeland, [and other rural] interests.”  Members are appointed to the committee by the U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary upon recommendation of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator to advise both agencies, and serve two-year terms “at the pleasure” of the Secretary of Transportation.  FAA recently issued a solicitation for nominations to the Drone Advisory Committee in June 2020.  On January 5, 2021, DOT Secretary Elaine Chao appointed several new members to the committee, including aerial intelligence company MEASURE’s CEO and Co-Founder, Brandon Torres Declet, who is currently listed as representing agricultural interests. 

Organic Agriculture: US and UK Organic Equivalency Agreement Effective January 1, 2021 

On January 1, 2021, the organic equivalence arrangement between the United States (US) and the United Kingdon (UK) became effective, allowing crops, wild crops, livestock, and processed products certified as organic in each country to be reciprocally labelled and sold as organic in both countries.  Previously, the UK operated under the organic equivalency arrangement between the US and the European Union.  The US-UK agreement only applies to products either raised or which received final processing or packaging within the certifying country.  Products from aquatic animals and animals treated with antibiotics are ineligible for export to the U.S. as certified organic.  


Agricultural Law/Policy Resources of Interest:  

Kristine A. Tidgren, SBA Has Issued Rules for First Draw, Second Draw, and Increased PPP Loans (Jan. 9, 2021).  

Micah Brown, Lending for Livestock, Credit for Crops: Purchase-Money Security Interests (Jan. 5, 2021).  

Harrison Pittman, What is a Checkoff? (Jan. 7, 2021).  

Betty Ward, Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 – Highlights of Tax Issues Impacting Farm Businesses (Jan. 10, 2021).  


Penn State Research & News: 

Discovery of Chemical Clue may Lead to Solving Cacao's Black Pod Rot Mystery (Dec. 23, 2020).  

Leaf Fossils Show Severe End-Cretaceous Plant Extinction in Southern Argentina (Jan. 4, 2021).  




Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Press Releases: 

Department Of Agriculture Releases COVID-19 Restaurant Enforcement Actions, Dec. 28–Jan. 3 (Jan. 5, 2021).  

Department Of Agriculture Offers Free Agribusiness Planning Workshops Through PA Farm Bill Ag Business Development Center (Jan. 6, 2021).  

Secretary Of Agriculture Highlights Ways To Experience The 2021 Virtual Pennsylvania Farm Show (Jan. 7, 2021).  


U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Press Releases: 

USDA Continues to Move SNAP Participants Forward (Jan. 4, 2021).  

USDA Announces Continuation of the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, Fifth Round of Food Purchases (Jan. 4, 2021).  

Trump Administration Invests $4.6 Million in High-Speed Broadband in Rural Georgia (Jan. 7. 2021).  

Trump Administration Invests $16 Million in High-Speed Broadband in Rural Illinois, Oregon and South Carolina (Jan. 8, 2021).  




Pennsylvania Executive Agencies (Pa. Bulletin Vol. 51, No. 2—Jan. 9, 2021):  

Department of Environmental Protection 

51 Pa.B. 187 Notice: “The Clean Streams Law and the Federal Clean Water Act: Applications for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permits and Water Quality Management (WQM) Permits.” 

51 Pa.B. 238 Notice: “Conditional State Water Quality Certification under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act for the United States Army Corps of Engineers Nationwide Permits.” 

51 Pa.B. 240 Notice: “Draft Stream Evaluation Reports; Public Comment Period Extended.” 


Pennsylvania Legislature 

No new actions Jan. 4–8, 2021. 




Federal Executive Agencies (Federal Register Jan. 4–8, 2021):  

Agricultural Department 

86 FR 49 Notice—Comment Period: “Solicitation of Commodity Board Topics and Contribution of Funding Under the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program” (Jan. 4. 2021).  

86 FR 1083 Notice: “Establishment of the Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production Advisory Committee and Solicitation of Nominations for Membership on the Advisory Committee” (Jan. 7. 2021).  


Agricultural Marketing Service 

86 FR 1475 Notice: “Grain Fees for Official Inspection and Weighing Services Under the United States Grain Standards Act (USGSA)” (Jan. 8, 2021).  


Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service 

86 FR 50 Notice—Comment Period: “Notice of Request for Approval of an Information Collection; SARS-CoV-2 Testing in Animals Reporting Activities” (Jan. 4, 2021).  

86 FR 1477 Notice—Comment Period: “Notice of Availability of an Environmental Assessment for Release of Lilioceris” (Jan. 8, 2021).  

86 FR 1476 Notice—Comment Period: “Notice of Request for Revision to and Extension of Approval of an Information Collection; Approval of Laboratories for Conducting Aquatic Animal Tests for Export Health Certificates” (Jan. 8, 2021).  


Energy Department 

86 FR 1101 Notice: “Environmental Management Site-Specific Advisory Board, Savannah River Site” (Jan. 7, 2021).  


US Army Corp of Engineers 

86 FR 1278 Final Rule: “Design Criteria for Dam and Lake Projects” (Jan. 8, 2021).  


Farm Credit Administration 

86 FR 223 Rule–: “District Financial Reporting” (Jan. 5, 2021).  


Farm Service Agency 

7 CFR 760 Rule–Comment Period: “Agricultural Disaster Indemnity Programs” (Jan. 6, 2021). 


Federal Emergency Management Agency 

86 FR 557 Notice: “Florida; Emergency and Related Determinations” (Jan. 6, 2021).  

86 FR 558 Notice: “Oklahoma; Major Disaster and Related Determinations” (Jan. 6, 2021). 

86 FR 556 Notice: “Texas; Major Disaster and Related Determinations” (Jan. 6, 2021). 

86 FR 1117 Notice—Comment Period: “Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA); Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC); Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM)” (Jan. 7, 2021).  


Fish and Wildlife Service 

86 FR 192 Final Rule: “Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Reclassification of the Endangered June Sucker to Threatened With a Section 4(d) Rule” (Jan. 4, 2021).  

86 FR 123 Notice—Comment Period: “Agency Information Collection Activities; Submission to the Office of Management and Budget for Review and Approval; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Concessions” (Jan. 4, 2021).  

86 FR 116 Notice—Comment Period: “Agency Information Collection Activities; Online Eastern Population Sandhill Crane Survey Data Entry Portal” (Jan. 4, 2021).  

86 FR 118 Notice, Comments accepted: “John H. Chafee Coastal Barrier Resources System; Okaloosa and Walton Counties, FL; Beaufort and Charleston Counties, SC; Availability of Draft Revised Boundaries and Request for Comments” (Jan. 4, 2021).  

86 FR 1134 Final Rule: “Regulations Governing Take of Migratory Birds” (Jan. 7, 2021).  


Food and Drug Administration 

86 FR 104 Notice—Comment Period: “Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposed Collection; Comment Request; National Agriculture and Food Defense Strategy Survey” (Jan. 4, 2021).  

86 FR 462 Final Rule–Comment Period: “Uniform Compliance Date for Food Labeling Regulations” (Jan. 6, 2021).  


Food and Nutrition Service 

86 FR 51 Notice—Comment Period: “Agency Information Collection Activities: Proposed Collection; Comment Request-FNS 245-SNAP Quality Control Regulations” (Jan. 4, 2021).  

86 FR 358 Final Rule: “Employment and Training Opportunities in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program” (Jan. 5, 2021).  


Rural Business-Cooperative Service 

86 FR 1087 Notice: “OneRD Annual Notice of Guarantee Fee Rates, Periodic Retention Fee Rates, Loan Guarantee Percentage and Fee for Issuance of the Loan Note Guarantee Prior to Construction Completion for Fiscal Year 2021; correction” (Jan. 7, 2021).  


Small Business Administration 

86 FR 1558 Notice: “Amendment to Administrative Declarations of Economic Injury Disasters for the Entire United States and U.S. Territories” (Jan. 8, 2021).  

86 FR 1558 Notice: “Administrative Declaration of a Disaster for the State of California” (Jan. 8, 2021). 

86 FR 1559 Notice: “Presidential Declaration of a Major Disaster for the State of Mississippi” (Jan. 8, 2021). 

86 FR 1560 Notice: “Administrative Declaration Amendment of a Disaster for the State of California” (Jan. 8, 2021). 

86 FR 1559 Notice: "Administrative Declaration Amendment of an Economic Injury Disaster for the State of California” (Jan. 8, 2021).  


U.S. House Agriculture Committee 

H.R.54 “Farewell to Unnecessary Energy Lifelines Reform Act of 2021” or the “FUEL Reform Act” Referred to the Committees on Agriculture, Oversight and Reform, and Science, Space, and Technology (Jan. 4, 2021).  

H.R.218 “To prohibit the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture from issuing moratoriums on issuing new oil and gas leases and drill permits on certain Federal lands.” Referred to the Committees on Natural Resources and Agriculture (Jan. 6, 2021).  

H.R.220 “To make supplemental appropriations to carry out farm stress programs, provide for expedited additional support under the farm and ranch stress assistance network, and for other purposes.” Referred to the House Committee on Agriculture (Jan. 6, 2021).  


U.S. Senate Committee Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry: 

PN1 “Robert Benedict Bowes — Commodity Futures Trading Commission” Robert Benedict Bowes, of Virginia, to be a Commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission for a term expiring April 13, 2025 (Jan. 3, 2021). 


Follow us on Twitter @AgShaleLaw–Top #AgLaw HotLinks Jan. 4–8, 2021  

AFBF Plans to Refocus on the Farm Bill & Trade, Brownfield 

How Does USDA’s Plan for Regulating Genetically Modified Animals Differ from FDA Plan?, Feedstuffs 

Federal Communications Commission Report Shows Importance of Rural Broadband, Brownfield 

Pandemic Results in Food Price Hikes, Brownfield 

Cracking Progress or Not Up to Scratch? European Cage-Free Egg Pledge in Focus, Food Navigator 

USDA ERS Explores COVID-19 Impact on Rural Areas, Farm Progress 

Dairy Groups Applaud New Dietary Guidelines but Physicians Committee Slams ‘Racial Tinged Promotion of Dairy Products’, Dairy Reporter 


Connect with us on Facebook.   


PFEL: The Pennsylvania Farm Employers’ Listserv (PFEL) is an email networking and resource-sharing group about human resources topics exclusively for agricultural operations and producers.  To subscribe, please send an email to:  In the subject line, type “subscribe” and type any word in the body (to circumvent spam filtering).  This is a project of the Penn State Ag Law Center with many thanks to Penn State Extension for assistance.    

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