Welcome to the Ag & Food Law Blog

This blog provides a comprehensive news, research, and information resource on agricultural and food law for the nation’s agricultural community. 

It is provided as a partnership of The National Agricultural Law Center, the nation’s leading source of agricultural and food law research and information, and the American Agricultural Law Association, the only national professional organization focusing on the legal needs of the agricultural community.  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.

WOTUS Joint Committee Hearing Set for Feb 4

Posted January 26, 2015

The House and Senate committees have set a joint Feb. 4 hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Clean Water Act rule, according to an Agri-Pulse article available here. WNAX also published an article available here.

The joint hearing involves the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Senate Ag Committee Chairman Pat Roberts is also conferring with Environment Chairman James Inhofe on the issue, according to WNAX.

Administration officials hope the rule finalizes this spring, would re-define what streams, ponds, ditches and other areas fall under the Clean Water Act's jurisdiction as waters of the United States (WOTUS), according to Agri-Pulse.

Last fall the House voted 262-152 to approve a bill that would have killed the rule, but the legislation never advanced in the Senate, which was then controlled by Democrats.

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

DOL Drops "Hot Goods" Charges

Posted January 26, 2015

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is dropping a lawsuit against two Oregon blueberry growers accused of "hot goods" labor law violations, according to a Capital Press article available here. The Register Guard also published an article available here and Seattle Pi here.

The two blueberry growers are Pan-American Berry Growers and B&G Ditchen.

In 2012, the DOL threatened to stop the shipment of perishable berries as unlawfully harvested “hot goods” unless the growers agreed to pay $220,000 in back wages and penalties, according to The Register Guard.

The farmers complied, but then turned to the federal courts where a judge ruled that the growers were acting under duress to save their crops. The agency then said it would appeal and sought additional charges against the growers.

Under the signed agreements, the workers get to keep $73,500 that was distributed as underpayments, but the farms will receive payments almost equal payments and also will receive $30,000 each.

The lawyer for both growers, Tim Bernasek, said that they are relieved the dispute has ended and they're satisfied with the settlement, according to Seattle Pi.

“They are very appreciative of the support the industry has given them,” said Bernasek.

For more information, a previous blog post on the lawsuit is available here.

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

USDA Approved New Monsanto GMO Seeds

Posted January 21, 2015

Monsanto has received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for new genetically modified cotton and soybean seeds, according to  an ABC News article available here. Capital Press also published the article here, and The Wall Street Journal also published an article available here and.

GMO seeds are used to decrease pest and weed damages and increase yields and herbicide tolerance. But many crops can develop a resistance to herbicides so companies must develop a new version.

The new soybean and cotton seeds are designed to tolerate glyphosate exposure as well as dicamba, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is “nearing completion of its concurrent review” of a new dicamba and glyphosate formulation.

Environmental and consumer groups opposing the new formulation have argued that stronger weed killers pose more of a threat to the public’s health.

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

U.S. Federal Court Rules Farm are Liable for Manure Pollution

Posted January 20, 2015

A U.S. federal court has ruled that manure from livestock facilities can be regulated as solid waste, according to a Reuters article available here. Huffington Post also published the article here and Environment & Energy Publishing here.

A dairy farm in Washington, Cow Palace Dairy, applied manure to the soil polluting the ground water, ruled Judge Thomas Rice of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington.

“The practices of this mega-dairy are no different than thousands of others across the country,” said Jessica Culpepper, an attorney at Public Justice that represented the plaintiffs.

In 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) studied the extent of the contamination by testing 331 wells in the Lower Yakima Valley. The EPA found that 20 percent of the wells exceeded the federal drinking water standard for nitrate, according to Environment & Energy Publishing.

Nitrate contamination can be harmful to human health particularly infants. It has been linked to cancer and “blue baby syndrome,” a potentially fatal condition connected to babies fed formula mixed with contaminated water.

The court ruled that Cow Palace violated the “open dumping” provisions, which requires violators stop polluting and clean up any damage, according to Reuters.

The case, Community Association For Restoration Of The Environment, Inc. et al v. Cow Palace, LLC et al, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, No. 13-CV-301, is scheduled to go to trial in March.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court recently reversed an appeals court ruling that ruled a Washington County farm couple was not responsible for manure run-off.

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

Senators Introduce Bill to End Corn-Ethanol Mandate

Posted January 19, 2015

Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced a bill to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline eliminating the corn ethanol-blending mandate, according to The Hill article available here. Agri-Pulse also published an article available here and The Des Moines Register here.

The bill removes the mandate to blend ethanol into gasoline but preserves biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol fuel mandates. The standard ethanol mandate is essentially a corn ethanol mandate.

“It drives up gas prices, increases food costs, damages car engines, and is harmful to the environment,” said Toomey.

The amendment is similar to the Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act that Feinstein proposed with then-Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla, according to Agri-Pulse.

The corn ethanol mandate is expected to rise to 15 billion gallons this year. It is anticipated that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing a lower level in line with the expected “blend wall,” the market limit on the amount of ethanol that can actually be sold. EPA proposed a lower level in 2014, but the mandate has not yet been finalized.

The Senate is expected to begin voting on the Keystone bill amendments next week, but President Barack Obama is expected to threaten the legislation.

Ethanol groups were quick to blast the Senate measure, according to The Des Moines Register.

“The Feinstein/Toomey amendment is founded upon a false premise,” said Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association. “This amendment is an unnecessary solution to an imaginary problem. If approved, it would set our nation's energy, economic, and climate agenda back decades.”

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

John Deere Announces Private-Crop Insurance

Posted January 16, 2015

John Deere Insurance Company has released a new private crop-insurance policy, Added Value Protection, to protect against yield shortage, according to an Agri View article available here. John Deere also published a statement here and Farm Futures here.

The program works with a producer's Multi-Peril Crop Insurance policy, and it allows a producer to purchase additional coverage protecting a portion of their annual yield, according to Farm Futures.

John Deere also announced an optional endorsement to this new policy, BASF Risk Protection Optional Endorsement, in collaboration with BASF.

To receive these benefits, applicants must complete the requirements of either the BASF Risk Advantage or BASF Investment Advantage programs, including purchasing three BASF qualifying products for a minimum of 500 acres per insured crop from a BASF representative before the applicable Multi-Peril Crop Insurance sales closing date, and applying to insured crops, according to Agri View.

The Added Value Protection Policy now in 31 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, according to Farm Futures.

If approved, the coverage will also be available in Maryland, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington.

For more information, visit John Deere’s website here.

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