Welcome to the Ag & Food Law Blog

Welcome to the Ag & Food Law Blog, a comprehensive news, research, and information resource on agricultural and food law for the nation’s agricultural community. 

It is provided by the National Agricultural Law Center, the nation’s leading source of agricultural and food law research and information.  Located in Fayetteville, Arkansas the National Agricultural Law Center serves the nation's agricultural community and is a unit of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.  In addition, the Center leads the eXtension Community of Practice for Agricultural and Food Law.

Dry and semi-dry sausage production e-book available

Posted November 23, 2015

The second installation from The Meat Processor's Journal series is a compilation of expert knowledge, practices and technologies developed from the production of Dry and Semi-Dry Sausage Production.

Volume 2 details the history, art and current science of commercial Dry and Semi-Dry Sausage Production. This edition explores raw materials, new technologies and critical food safety and sanitation issues in six easy-to-read chapters.

In an easy-to-use e-book format, The Meat Processor's Journal lets processing executives, plant managers and R&D personnel explore the emerging science, methods and trends pertinent to a specific meat and/or poultry-processing topic. This content-rich, interactive e-book contains video, live web links and detailed graphics available to download. The material is also available as a downloadable PDF.

For a free download of Dry and Semi-Dry Sausage Production, please see The Meating Place’s website here.

FDA approves genetically engineered salmon

Posted November 20, 2015

The FDA has approved AquaBounty Technologies’ application for AquAdvantage Salmon, an Atlantic salmon that reaches market size more quickly than non-genetically engineered (GE) farm-raised Atlantic salmon, according to the FDA’s press release here. The Washington Post also published an article available here and Reuters here.

The FDA regulates GE animals under the new animal drug provisions of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, because the recombinant DNA (rDNA) construct introduced into the animal meets the definition of a drug. In this case, the rDNA construct introduces a trait that makes the AquAdvantage Salmon grow faster.  

“The FDA has thoroughly analyzed and evaluated the data and information submitted by AquaBounty Technologies regarding AquAdvantage Salmon and determined that they have met the regulatory requirements for approval, including that food from the fish is safe to eat,” said Bernadette Dunham, D.V.M., Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.

Five years ago, the FDA first declared the product, made by Massachusetts-based AquaBounty Technologies, to be as safe as conventional farm-raised Atlantic salmon, according to Reuters.

AquaBounty's product will not require special labeling because it is nutritionally equivalent to conventional farm-raised Atlantic salmon, the FDA said on Thursday.

AquaBounty developed the salmon by altering its genes so that it would grow faster than farmed salmon, and expects it will take about two more years to reach consumers' plates.

A Canadian governmental risk assessment issued in 2013 also looked at both safety and escapes, and they described the risk to human health as “low” and the risk to the Canadian environment as “negligible,” according to The Washington Post.

On both of those issues, there will always be some doubt. Safety can’t be proved (we can only infer it from absence of harm so far), and any containment system can fail. So the questions aren’t “Is it safe?” and “Could they escape?” The question is whether the risk in those two areas is outweighed by the benefits.

The FDA will maintain regulatory oversight over the production and facilities, and will conduct inspections to confirm that adequate physical containment measures remain in place. In addition, the Canadian and Panamanian governments will also be conducting inspections of the facilities, according to the FDA.

For more information on biotechnology, please visit the National Agricultural Law Center’s website here.

FDA seeking comments to define "natural"

Posted November 17, 2015

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is exploring the use of the term “natural,” asking the public to provide information and comments on the use of this term in the labeling of human food products, according to the FDA.

The FDA is taking action because it received three Citizen Petitions asking that the agency define the term “natural” for use in food labeling and one Citizen Petition asking that the agency prohibit the term “natural” on food labels. 

Specifically, the FDA asks for information and public comment on questions such as:

  • Whether it is appropriate to define the term “natural,”
  • If so, how the agency should define “natural,” and
  • How the agency should determine appropriate use of the term on food labels.

The FDA is accepting public comments until February 10, 2016.

To comment on the definition of “natural,” please click here.

For more information on food labeling, please visit the National Agricultural Law Center’s website here.

FDA released rules for fruit and vegetable producers

Posted November 16, 2015

To minimize the risk of serious adverse health consequences or death from consumption of contaminated produce, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has established science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing and holding of produce grown for human consumption. 

The rule sets forth procedures, processes and practices that minimize the risk of serious adverse health consequences or death, including those reasonably necessary to prevent the introduction of known or reasonably foreseeable biological hazards into or onto produce and to provide reasonable assurances that the produce is not adulterated on account of such hazards. The rule is expected to reduce foodborne illness associated with the consumption of contaminated produce.

“FDA’s authority to conduct on-farm examinations and investigations for the purposes of the FD&C Act is not limited to for-cause situations and FDA is not required to give a farm prior notice of an inspection,” page 625.

For more information, Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human is available here.

Appeals court rules against Obama's immigration plan

Posted November 11, 2015

A federal appeals court said that President Obama could not overhaul immigration rules by providing up to five million people with work permits and protection from deportation, according to The New York Times article available here.

A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, ruled 2 to 1 against the appeal from the Obama administration.

The ruling is the latest set back to the president’s efforts to circumvent congressional inaction on immigration, reshaping the way immigration laws are enforced.

The White House said in a statement that it strongly disagreed with the court and that the departments of Justice and Homeland Security will review the ruling to determine the "next steps" in the case, according to USA Today.

"The Supreme Court and Congress have made clear that the federal government can set priorities in enforcing our immigration laws," the statement read. "This lawsuit is preventing people who have been part of our communities for years from working on the books, contributing to our economy by paying taxes on that work, and being held accountable."

The administration could ask for a re-hearing by the full 5th Circuit but the National Immigration Law Center urged an immediate Supreme Court appeal, according to CBS News.

"The most directly impacted are the 5 million U.S. citizen children whose parents would be eligible for temporary relief from deportation," Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the organization, said in a news release.

The 4.3 million undocumented immigrants deemed eligible for the program are at the mercy of the next president, making the panel's decision a major blow to Obama, who has hoped to overhaul the nation's immigration system before leaving office, according to USA Today.

"The most directly impacted are the five million U.S. citizen children whose parents would be eligible for temporary relief from deportation," said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. "We now call on the Department of Justice to seek Supreme Court review immediately, where we are more likely to obtain justice for our communities."

Georgia farm to pay $485K labor settlement

Posted November 11, 2015

A Georgia produce farm has agreed to pay $485,000 to settle a federal lawsuit, according to a WSB-TV 2 article available here. Daily Journal also published the article here.

The lawsuit against Southern Valley Fruit & Vegetable Inc. and Hamilton Growers Inc. by Georgia Legal Services and the Southern Poverty Law Center was filed last year. It included American farmworkers and Mexican farmworkers brought to the U.S. on temporary agricultural visas.

The suit alleged farmworkers were not fairly compensated, including pay below minimum wage, no overtime pay and partial payment. It also said Mexican workers were owed reimbursements for travel from their home country.

The order requires that the Georgia company to rehire the farmworkers, who were part of the suit, and change its timekeeping and payroll practices.

For more information on labor law issues, please visit the National Agricultural Law Center’s website here.