Thursday, January 7, 2021

Agricultural Law Weekly Review—week ending January 1, 2021

Written by: 
Audry Thompson—Research Assistant

Brook Duer—Staff Attorney
The Agricultural Law Weekly Review provides an update of recent agricultural law developments from local, state, national, and international levels.  Subscribe at

Want to listen to this Weekly Review? Check out the Penn State Agricultural Law Podcast

COVID-19: $900 Billion Appropriations Act Includes $13 Billion in COVID-19 Relief for Agriculture 

On December 27, 2020, President Trump signed into law H.R.133, known as the “Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021,” which appropriates $900 billion dollars in COVID-19 relief funding, approximately $13 Billion of which represents aid to agriculture in various forms.  That represents 1.4% of the total relief funding bill.  The list of aid under USDA’s jurisdiction includes a gross amount of $11.2 Billion allocated to the Office of the USDA Secretary for direct financial assistance to commodity producers.  The balance is appropriated to various existing statutory programs benefiting agriculture.  American Farm Bureau Federation Chief Economist John Newton and colleagues authored a detailed report breaking down the $13 billion, available here.  Since the bill’s signing, USDA has announced the intended spending of $1.5 Billion for a fifth round of the Farmers to Families Food Box Program.   


Pesticides/Herbicides: Federal District Court Grants Temporary Restraining Order Against EPA AEZ Requirement Rule

On December 29, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York issued a temporary restraining order staying an October 30, 2020, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) final rule revising requirements for pesticide application exclusion zones (AEZ).  Rural & Migrant Ministry v. Andrew Wheeler, No. 1:20-cv-10645.  The Court held that the plaintiffs had shown a substantial likelihood of success on the merits, that EPA failed to follow the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and that additional training and the so-called “Do Not Contact” provision of the rule as revised was insufficient to provide adequate protection for workers.  The final rule is stayed until January 12, 2021 pending a hearing on a preliminary injunction, scheduled for January 8, 2021. For more on the EPA rule, see ALWR—week ending November 6, 2020, “EPA Publishes Final Rule on Pesticide Application Exclusion Zone Requirements.”

Biotechnology: USDA Proposes Animal Biotech Regulatory Framework for Oversight Transfer from FDA 

On December 28, 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) posted in the Federal Register a proposed rule titled, “Regulation of the Movement of Animals Modified or Developed by Genetic Engineering” (85 FR 84269).  Announced on December 21, 2020, the proposed rule will transfer regulatory oversight of animal biotechnology from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to USDA under the authority of the Animal Health Protection Act (AHPA), the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA), and the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA).  Under USDA’s proposed regulatory scheme, APHIS would conduct FMIA and PPIA safety assessments while FSIS would conduct food safety pre-slaughter and processing assessments of genetically engineered or modified animals.  The proposed rule has a comment period which is open until February 26, 2020.

Food Policy: USDA and HHS Release Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020–2025

On December 29, 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in partnership with Health and Human Services (HHS), announced the publication of Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020–2025.      

The guidelines include, for the first time, nutrition needs for children from birth until twenty-three months and focus food choices for all age groups on nutrient-dense foods, which contain the necessary vitamins and minerals with minimal or no additional sugars, saturated fats, or sodium.  For persons aged two and older, the guidelines advise that saturated fat be limited to ten percent of daily caloric intake.  While the dairy guidelines for persons aged two and older call for consumption of fat-free and low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese, and showcase that a cup of whole milk contains seventy-five percent more calories than a cup of fat-free milk (146 calories as opposed to 83), the recommended daily dairy servings for children ages twelve months through twenty-three months use data based on whole milk.  For more background on this development, see ALWR—week ending July 17, 2020, “USDA Publishes 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s Final Report for Public Comment” and the Agricultural Law Podcast, Special Episode #4. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Scientific Report.

Agricultural Law/Policy Resources of Interest: 

Peggy Kirk Hall, Ohio Legislation Updates Laws For Agricultural Societies (Dec. 28, 2020).

Roger A. McEowen, Boundaries and Surveys – What Are the Rules? (Dec. 27, 2020).

Roger A. McEowen, The “Almost Top Ten” Ag Law and Ag Tax Developments of 2020 (Jan. 1, 2020).

Roger A. McEowen, The “Almost Top Ten” Ag Law and Ag Tax Developments of 2020 – Part Two (Jan. 3, 2020). 

Penn State Research & News:

Newly Discovered Toxin-antitoxin System Abundant in One-Cell Organisms (Dec. 10, 2020).

Less Snowy Winters Produce Camouflage Mismatch in Mountain Hares (Dec. 16, 2020).



Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Press Releases:

Department Of Agriculture Releases COVID-19 Restaurant Enforcement Actions, Dec. 21–Dec. 27 (Dec. 29, 2020).

Butter Up! Pennsylvania Farm Show Invites Pennsylvanians To Step Up To The Plate, Create Home Butter Sculptures (Dec. 30, 2020). 

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

Make Every Bite Count: USDA, HHS Release Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 (Dec. 29, 2020).

USDA Approves Maine to Accept SNAP Benefits Online (Dec. 31, 2020).

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue Issues Proclamation Honoring Longtime Broadcaster Orion Samuelson (Dec. 31, 2020). 

USDA Extends Flexibilities Amid Continuing COVID-19 Pandemic, RMA (Dec. 30, 2020). 


Pennsylvania Executive Agencies (Pa. Bulletin Vol. 51, No. 1—Jan. 2, 2021): 

Department of Environmental Protection

51 Pa.B. 35 Applications, Actions, and Special Notices: “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. 79 Notice: “Availability of Technical Guidance.”

Governor’s Office

51 Pa.B. 8 “Proclamation of Disaster Emergency [December 15, 2020 Severe Winter Event].”

Milk Marketing Board

51 Pa.B. 112 Notice: “Hearing and Presubmission Schedule; Milk Marketing Area No. 3; Teleconference.” 

51 Pa.B. 113 Notice: “Hearing and Presubmission Schedule; Milk Marketing Area No. 5; Teleconference.”

51 Pa.B. 113 Notice: “Hearing and Presubmission Schedule; Milk Marketing Area No. 6; Teleconference.”

Susquehanna River Basin Commission

51 Pa.B. 123 Notice: “Actions Taken at December Meeting.”

51 Pa.B. 123 Notice: “Grandfathering Registration Notice.”

51 Pa.B. 124 Notice: “Projects Approved for Minor Modifications.” 

51 Pa.B. 126 Notice: “Projects Approved for Minor Modifications.”

51 Pa.B. 127 Notice: “Projects Approved for Minor Modifications.” 

Pennsylvania Legislature

No actions Dec. 28, 2020–Jan 1, 2021.


Federal Executive Agencies (Federal Register Dec. 28, 2020–Jan 1, 2021): 

Agricultural Department

85 FR 86529 Notice: “Submission for OMB Review; Comment Request [Food Safety and Inspection Service: Focus Group Research to Inform Consumer Food Safety Education and Outreach]” (Dec. 30, 2020).

Agricultural Marketing Service

85 FR 84293 Notice: “Certification of Alabama, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin To Provide Official Services at Export Port Locations Under a Delegation; Cancellation of South Carolina's Delegation” (Dec. 28, 2020).

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

85 FR 84269 Proposed Rule—Comment Period: “Regulation of the Movement of Animals Modified or Developed by Genetic Engineering” (Dec. 28, 2020). 

85 FR 85497 Final Rule: “Amendments to the Pale Cyst Nematode Regulations” (Dec. 29, 2020).

Environmental Protection Agency

85 FR 86556 Notice—Comment Period: “Atrazine, Simazine, and Propazine Registration Review; Draft Endangered Species Act Biological Evaluations; Extension of Comment Period” (Dec. 30, 2020).

85 FR 86557 Notice: “Product Cancellation Order for Certain Pesticide Registrations of Tetrachlorvinphos” (Dec. 30, 2020).

Federal Emergency Management Agency

85 FR 84262 Final Rule: “Suspension of Community Eligibility [Iowa, Mich., Wis., Tex., S.D.]” (Dec. 28, 2020).

Fish and Wildlife Service

85 FR 85535 Final Rule: “Migratory Bird Permits; Management of Conflicts Associated With Double-Crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) Throughout the United States” (Dec. 29, 2020).

Food and Drug Administration

85 FR 84347 Notice: “Voluntary Disclosure of Sesame as an Allergen: Draft Guidance for Industry; Availability; Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposed Collection; Comment Request; Extension of Comment Period” (Dec. 28, 2020).

Food and Nutrition Service

85 FR 86901 Notice: “Summer Food Service Program; 2021 Reimbursement Rates” (Dec. 31, 2020).

Securities and Exchange Commission

85 FR 86591 Notice: “Acknowledgement of Receipt of Notice of Registration as a National Securities Exchange Pursuant to Section 6(g) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 by the Minneapolis Grain Exchange, LLC” (Dec. 30, 2020).

U.S. House Agriculture Committee

H.R.9064 “To Amend and Improve Federal law regarding in the areas of immigration, health care, the Constitution, education, trade, veterans affairs, welfare, tax, and other matters.” Referred to the Committees on the Judiciary, Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, Education and Labor, Natural Resources, House Administration, Rules, Appropriations, Agriculture, Oversight and Reform, Veterans' Affairs, and Foreign Affairs (Dec. 31, 2020).

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

No new actions Dec. 28, 2020–Jan 1, 2021.

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