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.

Missouri Right to Farm Act Upheld

Posted September 16, 2014

After all the votes have been recounted, the Missouri Amendment One, “Right to Farm,” stands, according to an Ozarks First article by Matt Lupoli available here. Feedstuffs also published an article available here and The Republic here.

According to Secretary of State Jason Kander, a total of 499,963 "yes" votes were cast against 497,588 "no" votes. The recount margin narrowed from 2,490 votes to 2,375.

The recount was requested after the ballot passed with a margin victory of less than one-half of a percentage point, according to The Republic.

The amendment protects farmer practices, including early weaning of dairy cattle, neutering and castration, and the planting of genetically modified crops, according to Feedstuffs.

“Although the recount was unnecessary and costly to Missouri taxpayers, we are pleased with the results upholding the passage of Amendment #1,” said Blake Hurst, president of Missouri Farm Bureau.

The secretary of state’s office estimated the recount could cost up to $100,000, according to The Republic.

Jim McCann, Missouri Cattlemen’s Association (MCA) president, said out-of-state organizations were “vehemently” opposed to the Amendment and attempted to mislead Missourians, according to Feedstuffs.

"The Farming Rights Amendment was created with family farms and ranches in mind," said McCann. "It is good to know Missourians welcome family farmers and ranchers and understand the importance of agriculture to the all-around wellbeing of our state."

For more information on Right to Farm laws and for a compilation of states’ Right to Farm statutes, please visit the National Agricultural Law Center’s website here.

Stabenow Awarded WFP's Highest Honor

Posted September 12, 2014

Debbie Stabenow, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman, was awarded the World Food Program USA's McGovern-Dole Leadership Award, according to an Agri-Pulse article by Daniel Enoch available here.

The award is the highest honor for Stabenow’s global effort to fight hunger and provide aid to those in need.

“A new program established by Senator Stabenow - just a few words of text in the bill - will have a transformative impact,” said Rick Leach, president and CEO of World Food Program USA. “Now we can buy food from small-scale farmers, who often suffer from hunger, to feed children in school. Through this effort, we can lift the first group out of hunger and extreme poverty while providing hope and opportunity for the second.”

Stabenow was honored to be an award recipient.

“This award means so much to me because I know the World Food Program travels to the ends of the earth - literally - to deliver food and supplies to men, women and children. Deliveries that may be the difference between life and death,” said Stabenow.

“As Americans, we are compelled to help alleviate global hunger because it's simply the right thing to do. It's also the smart thing to do. International aid is more than a Band-Aid - it's a building block to create stronger economies around the world. Food security is a stabilizing force in destabilized regions. By fighting global hunger and strengthening local agricultural economies, we are enhancing global security.”

For more information about the World Food Program, please visit their website here.

For more information on farm bills and disaster programs, please visit the National Agricultural Law Center’s website here and here.

NFU Withdraws from Beef Checkoff

Posted September 10, 2014

The National Farmers Union (NFU) board of directors has voted to withdraw from the beef checkoff working group, according to a NFU release available here. MeatingPlace also published an article available here and Cattle Network here.

NFU President Roger Johnson released the following statement:

“After three years of pushing for real reforms in the beef check-off program, NFU has decided that the process has become a bridge to nowhere and a waste of time and resources. The working group was designed to bring together vested parties from across the beef industry and to attempt to reach a consensus on substantial reforms that would make the check-off a stronger, more effective tool for the beef industry. Sadly, it has become clear that in reality, there is no willingness from key players within the group to allow real reforms to take place. NFU remains willing and eager to engage with others who are interested in reforming the beef checkoff, such that it operates in a manner like other checkoff programs.”

The NFU is asking U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to consider several reforms such as allowing the Cattlemen’s Beef Board to conduct checkoff projects on its own, according to MeatingPlace.

The NFU recommends that USDA consider rewriting the program under the 1996 generic research and promotion act, according to Cattle Network.

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

GAO Released Crop Insurance Study

Posted September 9, 2014

The cost of the federal crop insurance program and farm sector income and wealth has grown significantly since 2003. The cost has risen from an average of $3.4 billion per year in 2003 to $8.4 billion a year for fiscal years 2008 through 2012, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) website.

Federally subsidized crop insurance, which farmers can buy to help manage the risk inherent in farming, has become one of the most important programs in the farm safety net. Revenue policies, which protect farmers against crop revenue loss from declines in production or price, are the most popular policy type accounting for 80 percent of all premium subsidies.

The GAO was asked to investigate the cost of the crop insurance program. This report examines "(1) trends in federal crop insurance costs and farm sector income and wealth from 2003 through 2012 and (2) the potential savings to the government and impacts on farmers, if any, of reducing federal premium subsidies for revenue policies."

GAO analyzed U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) crop insurance program data and farm sector income and wealth data from 2003 through 2012, reviewed economic literature and documents from stakeholders, including farm industry groups and researchers, and interviewed USDA officials.

For more information, the GAO report is available here. The highlights of the report are available here.

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

Canadian Beekeepers Sue Bayer and Syngenta

Posted September 9, 2014

Canadian beekeepers are suing crop pesticide companies for more than $400 million in damages, according to a CBC article available here. Bloomberg also published an article here and Farmers Weekly here.
A recent blog post on bees and neonicotinoids is available here.

The class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of all Canadian beekeepers by Sun Parlor Honey Ltd. and Munro Honey, the two largest Ontario honey producers, and alleges that pesticide use resulted in bee colony deaths.

"The goal is to stop the use of the neonicotinoids to stop the harm to the bees and the beekeepers," said Paula Lombardi, a lawyer with London, Ont.-based law firm Siskinds LLP, which is handling the case. 

The alleged losses include weak or dead bees, non-productive queen bees and colonies, contaminated wax, combs, and hives, reduced honey production and profits, and other labor and supply costs, according to Farmers Weekly.

Neonicotinoids are used as a seed coating in soybean, maize, and oilseed rape crops to resist crop pests.

Bayer and Syngenta have stated that the risk to bee health is low when the pesticides are used according to the guidelines indicated on their labels.

A hearing date has yet to be set by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, according to Bloomberg.

In 2013, the European Commission imposed a two-year ban on the “sale and use of neonicotinoid insecticides containing clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam for seed treatment, soil application and use on plants and cereals that are attractive to bees, except winter cereals.”

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

China Increases U.S. Sorghum Import Regulations

Posted September 4, 2014

China’s quarantine authorities have stopped shipments of U.S. alfalfa due to the presence of genetically modified organism (GMO) traits, according to a Hay and Forage article by Jeff Holmquist available here. Reuters also published an article available here.

A year ago, alfalfa was rejected for export from a Washington state farmer after it tested positive for a GMO trait that should not have been present.

Chinese feed mills have been purchasing U.S. sorghum as a cheap substitute for corn and is the world’s largest U.S. sorghum importer, according to Reuters.

"There are worries in the market, which should reduce imports of sorghum in later months," said Zhang Yan, an analyst at Shanghai JC Intelligence Co. Ltd (JCI).

There are concerns that the current 5 percent GMO threshold is no longer acceptable and may be released to 0.2 percent, according to Hay and Forage.

However, the new standard may not be realistic for China or U.S. exporters.

“The Chinese want to have a certain confidence of the hay being GMO-free,” says Harry Kreeft, plant pathologist and nematologist at Western Laboratories. “You can make tests as sensitive as you want, but you have to be realistic. Plus the Chinese also know they need the hay.”

China’s quarantine authority has asked ports to increase screening standards of alfalfa imports, according to Reuters.

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