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 https://aglaw.psu.edu/ where you can subscribe to this update or our other recurring publications or podcasts.
Agricultural Labor: Maryland Court of Appeals Finds Tyson Farms Not Co-Employer of Poultry Farm Employee
On November 20, 2020, the Court of Appeals of Maryland issued an opinion reversing the decision of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals and finding that Tyson Farms was not a co-employer of a Maryland poultry farm worker who sustained an occupational lung disease during his employment and residence on a Worcester County chicken farm. In overturning a jury verdict from the Circuit Court for Worcester County, which found Tyson not to be a joint employer, the majority of a Maryland Court of Special Appeals panel reversed the trial court and determined that Tyson was a co-employer with the farm owner—who had failed to carry worker’s compensation insurance—and awarded compensation for the worker. Tyson appealed the Court of Special Appeals decision to the Maryland Court of Appeals, which found “sufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could find—as it did—that Tyson . . . did not exercise the control . . . necessary to be deemed a co-employer,” noting that the farm owner’s “selection and hiring,” “payment of wages, and the ability to fire” the worker “weighed in favor of finding that Tyson was not . . . [a] co-employer.”
Agricultural Labor: DOL Issues Final H-2A Rule
On January 15, 2021 the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Employment and Training Administration announced the forthcoming publication of a final rule titled “Temporary Agricultural Employment of H-2A Nonimmigrants in the United States.” The final rule requires job orders and applications to be filed electronically, allowing DOL to share information with the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies, and allows employers without full-time work offerings to file a single application for joint employment to provide full-time work. The rule also allows employers to stagger the entry of H-2A workers into the country over 120 days and permits state and federal authorities to conduct inspections of employer-provided housing for up to twenty-four months. For more on the July 26, 2019 proposed rulemaking, see ALWR—August 1, 2019, “Department of Labor Proposes Changes to H-2A Program.”
WOTUS: EPA Issues Draft of Proposed Guidance for County of Maui Case
On January 10, 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published notice in the Federal Register of draft guidance clarifying wastewater permit requirements under County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund, which held that the Clean Water Act (CWA) requires a discharge permit when there is a direct discharge from a point source into navigable waters or when there is the “functional equivalent of a direct discharge” (85 FR 79489). The non-binding guidance, which EPA issued to clarify CWA requirements, states that “certain threshold conditions . . . must be satisfied before the legal obligation to have an [National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)] permit is triggered:” that “there must be (or will be) an “actual discharge of a pollutant to a water of the United States” (WOTUS), and that “such a discharge must be from a point source.” The guidance further outlined three concepts related to discharges that are the “functional equivalent” of a direct discharge into WOTUS: 1) An actual discharge of a pollutant to a water of the United States is a threshold condition that must be satisfied before the need for an NPDES permit is triggered; 2) The discharge of pollutants that reaches, or will reach, a water of the United States must be from a point source to trigger NPDES permitting requirements; and 3) Only a subset of discharges of pollutants to groundwater that ultimately reach a water of the United States are the “functional equivalent” of a direct discharge to a water of the United States. The 30-day comment period on the draft guidance closed January 11, 2021 (EPA-HQ-OW-2020-0673-0001). For more on the County of Maui decision, see ALWR—April 30, 2020, “U.S. Supreme Court Decides Clean Water Act Permitting Case.”
Antitrust: Pilgrim's Pride Reaches $75 Million Civil Antitrust Settlement
On January 11, 2021, Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation filed a notice of settlement, subject to court approval, with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, settling all claims with the Direct Purchaser Plaintiffs (DPP) in the consolidated antitrust class action suit In re Broiler Chicken Antitrust Litigation (No. 1:16-cv-08637). Pilgrim’s concurrently disclosed the settlement in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing and shareholder announcement, which states that Pilgrim’s $75 million payment to the DPP class will appear on its 2020 fourth quarter financial statements. Pilgrim’s states that, although it “does not admit any liability for the claims alleged in the Broiler Antitrust Civil Litigation,” the company had concluded that the proposed settlement, which does not apply to non-DPP claims, is “in the best interests of the Company and its shareholders.”
Conservation Programs: USDA Issues Regional Conservation Partnership Program Final Rule
On January 15, 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) published in the Federal Register a final rule titled, “Regional Conservation Partnership Program” (RCPP) (86 FR 3735), which adopts the February 13, 2020 interim rule with few modifications. (For more on the interim rule, see ALWR —February 20, 2020, “New Interim Rule on Regional Conservation Partnership Program”) Previously announced by NRCS on January 13, 2021, the final rule requires RCPP agreements with historically underserved (HU) producers to list any applicable “authorizations for higher payment rates, advance payment options, or other methods for encouraging HU participation” and designates source water protection as a priority resource concern. According to the Regional Conservation Partnership Program website, the next round of “RCPP Classic funding” will be announced in summer 2021. The final rule became effective upon publication.
Regulatory Policy: EPA Publishes Pivotal Science Transparency Final Rule
On January 6, 2021, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published in the Federal Register a final rule title, “Strengthening Transparency in Pivotal Science Underlying Significant Regulatory Actions and Influential Scientific Information” (86 FR 469). The rule requires that EPA clearly identify and make publicly available all science informing a significant regulatory action. In evaluating scientific data, the final rule calls for the agency to give greater consideration to “pivotal” studies whose dose-response data are available for independent validation and sets forth requirements for independent peer review of such studies. The rule does not require that “Personally Identifiable Information (PII)” or “Confidential Business Information (CBI)” be released, nor does it require EPA to “collect, store, or publicly disseminate” such information. The rule became effective upon publication.
Upcoming Webinars from Penn State Extension
Conversations with the Professionals: Ag Succession and Transition Planning with an Ag Attorney, March 23, 2021 at 9:00 am ET.
Conversations with the Professionals: Ag Succession and Transition Planning with an Ag Accountant, April 27, 2021 at 9:00 am ET.
Agricultural Law/Policy Resources of Interest:
Paul Goeringer, Maryland Court Reverses Finding on Poultry Farm Employment in Favor of Tyson Farms Inc. (Jan. 5, 2021).
Philip Gruber, Ag Lobbyist Reflects on 30-Year Career (Jan. 8, 2021).
Roger A. McEowen, The “Top Ten” Agricultural Law and Tax Developments of 2020 – Part Three (Jan. 11, 2021).
Roger A. McEowen, The “Top Ten” Agricultural Law and Tax Developments of 2020 – Part Four (Jan. 13, 2021).
Penn State Research & News:
AGENCY PRESS RELEASES—STATE/FEDERAL
Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Press Releases:
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Press Releases:
Secretary Perdue Statement on H-2A Modernization (Jan. 15, 2021).
USDA Agency Press Releases:
Conservation Reserve Program General Signup Begins Today and Ends February 12, FSA (Jan. 4, 2021).
USDA Seeks Members for Advisory Committee on Urban Agriculture, FSA (Jan. 6, 2021).
Availability of an Environmental Assessment for a Biological Control Agent of Air Potato, APHIS (Jan. 13, 2021).
Confirmation of COVID-19 in Gorillas at a California Zoo, APHIS (Jan. 13, 2021).
USDA Announces Deregulation of Cotton Developed Using Genetic Engineering, APHIS (Jan. 15, 2021).
Pennsylvania Executive Agencies (Pa. Bulletin Vol. 51, No. 3—Jan. 16, 2021):
Department of Agriculture
51 Pa.B. 311 Notice: “Agricultural Product Promotion, Education and Export Promotion Matching Grant Program; 2020-2021 Application Period.”
51 Pa.B. 313 Notice: “Pennsylvania Malt and Brewed Beverage Industry Promotion Board; Grant Solicitation and Application Procedures for Act 39 of 2016 Funding.”
51 Pa.B. 324 Notice: “Pennsylvania Wine Marketing and Research Board; Grant Solicitation and Application Procedures for Act 39 of 2016 Funding.”
51 Pa.B. 334 Notice: “Temporary Order Designating Dangerous Transmissible Diseases.”
Department of Environmental Protection
51 Pa.B. 337 Notice: “The Pennsylvania Clean Streams Law And The Federal Clean Water Act: Applications For National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permits And Water Quality Management (WQM) Permits Under The Clean Streams Law And Federal Clean Water Act.”
51 Pa.B. 390 Notice: “Availability of Technical Guidance [Management of Fill Policy].”
51 Pa.B. 391 Notice: “Small Business Compliance Advisory Committee Meeting Cancellation [Jan. 27, 2021; Next regular meeting April 28, 2021].”
51 Pa.B. 391 Notice: “Water Resources Advisory Committee Meeting Cancellation [Jan. 27, 2021; Next regular meeting March 4, 2021].”
Milk Marketing Board
51 Pa.B. 410 Notice: “Sunshine Meetings; Time and Venue Change”
HB 101 “An Act providing for limited civil liability for agritourism activity providers, for notice of limited civil liability and for acknowledgment of limited civil liability.” Referred to Agriculture and Rural Affairs [House] (Jan. 11, 2021).
HB 110 “An Act amending the act of October 21, 1988 (P.L.1036, No.116), known as the Hardwoods Development Council Act, further providing for Hardwoods Development Council.” Referred to Agriculture and Rural Affairs [House] (Jan. 11, 2021).
HB 122 “An Act amending Title 75 (Vehicles) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in registration of vehicles, further providing for vehicles exempt from registration; and, in licensing of drivers, further providing for persons exempt from licensing.” Referred to Transportation [House] (Jan. 12, 2021).
HB 127 “An Act amending the act of March 4, 1971 (P.L.6, No.2), known as the Tax Reform Code of 1971, in corporate net income tax, further providing for imposition of tax.” Referred to Finance [House] (Jan. 12, 2021).
HB 142 “An Act amending Title 42 (Judiciary and Judicial Procedure) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in facilities and supplies, further providing for deposits into account [‘Taking the Judiciary Out of the Dog Law Fund’].” Referred to Agriculture and Rural Affairs [House] (Jan. 13, 2021).
HB 179 “An Act amending Title 3 (Agriculture) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, providing for Food Establishment Pandemic Disease Remediation Cost Reimbursement Grant Program.” Referred to Agriculture and Rural Affairs [House] (Jan. 15, 2021).
Federal Executive Agencies (Federal Register Jan. 11–15, 2021):
86 FR 1917 Notice: “Submission for OMB Review; Comment Request [Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: Importation of Animals and Poultry, Animal and Poultry Products, Certain Animal Embryos, Semen, and Zoological Animals]” (Jan. 11, 2021).
Agricultural Marketing Service
86 FR 2880 Final Rule: “Pecan Promotion, Research, and Information Order” (Jan. 13, 2021).
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
86 FR 3987 Notice—Comment Period: “Notice of Availability of a Draft Federal Select Agent Program Policy Statement for Biosafety for Large Animal Study-Related Activities With Brucella abortus and Brucella suis Using Outdoor Containment Spaces” (Jan. 15, 2021).
Commodity Credit Corporation
86 FR 3735 Final Rule: Regional Conservation Partnership Program” (Jan. 15, 2021).
86 FR 2664 Notice: “Fuels of the Future Advisory Board” (Jan. 13, 2021).
Environmental Protection Agency
86 FR 1959 Notice—Comment Period: “Agency Information Collection Activities; Renewal Request Submitted to OMB for Review and Approval; Comment Request; Experimental Use Permits (EUPs) for Pesticides (Renewal)” (Jan. 11, 2021).
86 FR 1960 Notice—Comment Period: “Agency Information Collection Activities; Renewal Request Submitted to OMB for Review and Approval; Comment Request; Pesticide Program Public Sector Collections (FIFRA Sections 18 & 24(c)) (Renewal)” (Jan. 11, 2021).
86 FR 2415 Notice: “Product Cancellation Order for Certain Pesticide Registrations and Amendments To Terminate Uses; Amendment” (Jan. 12, 2021).
86 FR 4067 Notice—Comment Period: “Glyphosate Registration Review; Draft Endangered Species Act Biological Evaluations; Extension of Comment Period” (Jan. 15, 2021).
Federal Emergency Management Agency
86 FR 2434 Notice: “Changes in Flood Hazard Determinations [Ariz., Cal., Colo., Haw., Ill., Minn., N.D., Ohio, Tex., Wis.]” (Jan. 12, 2021).
86 FR 2437 Notice: “Changes in Flood Hazard Determinations [Ariz., Ark., Colo., Fla., Mass., Miss., N.C., Okla., Tex., Utah, Va., Wyo.]” (Jan. 12, 2021).
86 FR 2430 Notice—Comment Period: “Proposed Flood Hazard Determinations [Kansas]” (Jan. 12, 2021).
86 FR 2431 Notice—Comment Period: “Proposed Flood Hazard Determinations [Cal., Mich., Minn., Ohio]” (Jan. 12, 2021).
86 FR 2433 Notice—Comment Period: “Proposed Flood Hazard Determinations [Colorado]” (Jan. 12, 2021).
86 FR 2558 Final Rule: “Suspension of Community Eligibility [Colo., Iowa, Tenn., Tex.]” (Jan. 13, 2021).
Fish and Wildlife Service
86 FR 2373 Proposed Rule—Comment Period: “Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Regulations for Interagency Cooperation” (Jan. 12, 2021).
86 FR 2443 Notice—Comment Period: Agency Information Collection Activities; Submission to the Office of Management and Budget for Review and Approval; Horseshoe Crab and Cooperative Fish Tagging Programs” (Jan. 12, 2021).
86 FR 2442 Notice: “Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Initiation of 5-Year Status Reviews of 7 Species in the Mountain-Prairie Region” (Jan. 12, 2021).
86 FR 2440 Notice—Comment Period: “Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Draft Recovery Plan for Jones Cycladenia” (Jan. 12, 2021).
86 FR 2564 Final Rule: “Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removal of the Interior Least Tern From the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife” (Jan. 13, 2021).
86 FR 4820 Final Rule: “Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Revised Designation of Critical Habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl” (Jan. 15, 2021).
86 FR 3976 Proposed Rule—Comment Period: “Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Reclassifying Furbish's Lousewort (Pedicularis furbishiae) From Endangered to Threatened Status With a Section 4(d) Rule” (Jan. 15, 2021).
Food and Drug Administration
86 FR 1979 Notice—Comment Period: “Potential Approach for Defining Durations of Use for Medically Important Antimicrobial Drugs Intended for Use In or On Feed: A Concept Paper; Request for Comments” (Jan. 11, 2021).
Food and Nutrition Service
86 FR 3112 Notice: “Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations 2018 Farm Bill Demonstration Project for Tribal Organizations: Solicitation of Proposals” (Jan. 14, 2021).
86 FR 3988 Notice: “The Emergency Food Assistance Program; Availability of Foods for Fiscal Year 2021” (Jan. 15, 2021).
International Trade Commission
86 FR 2694 Notice: “Cucumbers: Effect of Imports on U.S. Seasonal Markets, With A Focus on the U.S. Southeast” (Jan. 13, 2021).
86 FR 2692 Notice: “Squash: Effect of Imports on U.S. Seasonal Markets, With A Focus on the U.S. Southeast” (Jan. 13, 2021).
Land Management Bureau
86 FR 3179 Notice: “Notice of Availability of the Record of Decision for Greater Sage-Grouse Management, Colorado” (Jan. 14, 2021).
86 FR 3180 Notice: “Notice of Availability of the Record of Decision for Greater Sage-Grouse Management, Idaho” (Jan. 14, 2021).
86 FR 3177 Notice: “Notice of Availability of the Record of Decision for Greater Sage-Grouse Management, Nevada and Northeastern California" (Jan. 14, 2021).
86 FR 3186 Notice: “Notice of Availability of the Record of Decision for Greater Sage-Grouse Management, Oregon” (Jan. 14, 2021).
86 FR 3187 Notice: “Notice of Availability of the Record of Decision for Greater Sage-Grouse Management, Utah” (Jan. 14, 2021).
86 FR 3184 Notice: “Notice of Availability of the Record of Decision for Greater Sage-Grouse Management, Wyoming” (Jan. 14, 2021).
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
86 FR 4131 Notice: “Notice of Deep Space Food Challenge Phase 1” (Jan. 15, 2021).
Rural Business-Cooperative Service
86 FR 1918 Notice: “Notice of Solicitation of Applications (NOSA) for the Strategic Economic and Community Development Program for Fiscal Year (FY) 2021” (Jan. 11, 2021).
86 FR 3991 Notice: “Inviting Applications for the Rural Energy for America Program; Correction” (Jan. 15, 2021).
Rural Housing Service
86 FR 1923 Notice: “Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) for Fiscal Year 2021” (Jan. 11, 2021).
Susquehanna River Basin Commission
86 FR 2024 Notice: “Grandfathering (GF) Registration Notice” (Jan. 11, 2021).
86 FR 2026 Notice—Comment Period: “Public Hearing [February 4, 2021]” (Jan. 11, 2021).
86 FR 2024 Notice: “Projects Approved for Consumptive Uses of Water” (Jan. 11, 2021).
U.S. House Agriculture Committee
H.R.247 “To provide for no net increase in the total acreage of certain Federal land under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, or the Forest Service, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committees on Natural Resources, and Agriculture (Jan. 11, 2021).
H.R.267 “To extend the wildfire and hurricane indemnity program to cover certain crop losses in calendar year 2020, and for other purposes.” Referred to the House Committee on Agriculture (Jan. 11, 2021).
H.R.279 “To provide lasting protection for inventoried roadless areas within the National Forest System.” Referred to the Committees on Natural Resources, and Agriculture (Jan. 12, 2021).
U.S. Senate Committee Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry:
No new actions Jan. 11–15, 2021
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