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.

Debates Arise over RFS in Washington

Posted July 29, 2014

On July 24, White House counselor John Podesta told a group of senators that reduced volumetric requirements for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in 2014 are imminent, according to an Agweek article by Jerry Hagstrom available here. A previous post on RFS was published on the blog here.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reduced the corn-based ethanol requirement after concerns arose that ethanol use was causing corn prices to rise resulting in the requirement of higher blends because overall gas use is down. The agency also reduced the biodiesel and cellulosic biofuel requirements on the basis that industries might not be able to produce enough fuel.

Representatives Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Peter Welch (D-VT), and Steve Womack (R-AR) released a statement, in response to comments made by White House advisor John Podesta, regarding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)

“Recent comments by a White House advisor implying a future increase in the ethanol mandate run counter to the position expressed by a majority of the House of Representatives. The EPA’s proposal for 2014, which included a reduction in the amount of ethanol blended into the fuel supply, was a positive step forward and acknowledged that the mandate is unworkable, detrimental to the environment, and price distorting to feedstock industries throughout the country. If these comments accurately represent the administration’s intentions, this would be a significant step backwards for American consumers and businesses. We urge EPA Administrator McCarthy and the Obama Administration to carefully consider the concerns of a majority of House lawmakers and take action to reduce the burden of the RFS for 2014.”

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said that she has not yet established a release date for the volumetric requirements, according to Agweek.

“I realize that this particular year is a difficult one,” McCarthy said. “EPA tried to get all the numbers out in the supply system. I think the biofuels industry knows we are working hard, otherwise it wouldn’t take so long.”

More than 218 House Members have either signed onto a letter or a bill calling for reform of the Renewable Fuel Standard, according to the statement.

For questions and answers concerning the RFS, please visit the National Agricultural Law Center’s website here.

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

FCIC Finalizes Insurance Rule

Posted July 29, 2014

The Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) has finalized the Common Crop Insurance Regulations, Pear Crop Insurance Provisions.

The rule is intended to improve coverage available to pear producers, to clarify existing policy provisions to better serve insured producers, and to reduce vulnerability to program fraud, waste, and abuse.

The proposed changes will be effective for the 2015 and succeeding crop years.

The rule is in effect August 27, 2014.

The Federal Register is available here.

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

Concerns Over Conservation Regulations Rise With Vegetable Producers

Posted July 29, 2014

Last week, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) informed producers of their obligation to comply with conservation regulations in order to purchase crop insurance and some vegetable producers have concerns, according to a Delta Farm Press article available here.

The Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association (FFVA) expressed their concerns to Congress and the USDA during consideration, because it will affect some producers more than others, depending on type of farm.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stated that all producers must file new paperwork with their local Farm Service Agency office.

“It’s important that farmers and ranchers taking the right steps to conserve valuable farm and natural resources have completed AD-1026 forms on file at their local Farm Service Agency office,” he said. “This will ensure they remain eligible for crop insurance support.”

Permanent crops are commodities produced without “annual tilling of the soil,” and are mostly exempted from this requirement, but the paperwork must still be filed in order to be eligible for the federal subsidy under crop insurance programs.

For crops that are “annually tilled,” an obligation may be required to have a certified conservation plan in place along with other restrictions, which depends on if the land is highly erodible or a wetland as defined by the USDA.

USDA is conduction a listening session on August 7 in Gainesville, Florida to receive comments from the industry.

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

FDA Not Required to Ban Antibiotics

Posted July 28, 2014

In a 2-to-1 decision, a federal appeals court has rule that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not have to ban the practice of feeding antibiotics to “healthy, food-producing livestock, according to a Wall Street Journal article by Ed Silverman available here. Food Safety News also published an article available here, Chicago Tribune here, and Meat and Poultry Journal here.

In 2011, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Food Animal Concerns Trust, Public Citizen, and the Union of Concerned Scientists filed a lawsuit to ban the routine practice of antibiotics in healthy animals, unless it could be proven that their medicine would not harm humans.

FDA has been promotion voluntary limits on animal feed containing antibiotics. In December, FDA began implementing a strategy to phase out the feed’s “indiscriminate use” except for when the use is “medically necessary,” according to the Chicago Tribune.

Circuit Judge Gerard Lynch stated that the FDA deserved deference, even if agency officials possessed concern about the safety of the feed.

"While the agency regards the indiscriminate and extensive use of such drugs in animal feed as threatening, it does not necessarily believe that the administration of antibiotics to animals in their feed is inherently dangerous to human health," wrote Lynch.

Chief Judge Robert Katzmann was not in favor of the ruling.

“Today’s decision allows the FDA to openly declare that a particular animal drug is unsafe, but then refuse to withdraw approval of that drug. It also gives the agency discretion to effectively ignore a public petition asking it to withdraw approval from an unsafe drug. I do not believe the statutory scheme can be read to permit those results, and I must therefore respectfully dissent,” said Katzmann, according to the Meat and Poultry Journal.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that at least 23,000 people die each year from antibiotic-resistant infections, according to Food Safety News.

FDA spokeswoman Jennifer Dooren said, "The FDA is currently reviewing the decision but is pleased with the outcome."

The case is Natural Resources Defense Council Inc et al v. FDA et al, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Nos. 12-2106, 12-3607.

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

Wild Horse Lawsuit Gains Additional Plaintiffs

Posted July 28, 2014

Two additional parties joined a federal lawsuit concerning wild horse policy, which demands the government gather and remove excess horses, according to an Ag Weekly article by Dylan Woolf Harris available here.

In an amended complaint filed Monday, Nevada Bighorns Unlimited and Crawford Cattle were listed as plaintiffs, joining Nevada Association of Counties (NACO) and the Nevada Farm Bureau Federation, which were the first companies to file suit in December.

The plaintiffs are alleging that the Bureau of Land Management is not following the law by allowing wild horse populations to exceed past the agency-identified carrying capacities, which results in damage to the land, wildlife, and horses.

“First and foremost, Defendants’ failures to properly follow the law have gravely harmed, and will continue to gravely injure the very animals that the (Wild Horse and Burro) Act was established to protect,” said the complaint.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has stated that it was lacking funds and adequate holding space. Government attorneys have asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit for legal reasons, which plaintiffs have until with an August 15 to respond.

The Elko County Commission pledged up to $10,000 to help fund the legal action, which could equal up to $90,000 or more according to NACO president Jeff Fontaine.

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

ATF Accepting Applications from Veterans for Training

Posted July 28, 2014

Armed to Farm (ATF) provides veterans and their spouses an opportunity to experience “sustainable, profitable small-scale farming enterprises.” Veterans will examine farming as a viable career and will learn about the capital, labor, and risks associated with farming, as well as the return on investment that is realistically possible.

National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) Sustainable Agriculture specialists will teach training sessions, including business planning, budgeting, recordkeeping, marketing, livestock production, fruit and vegetable production, and more.

Staff from University of Arkansas, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and crop and livestock producers will also be present.

The Fayetteville event is scheduled for September 14-19, with an additional even in Jackson, Mississippi September 22-26.

The deadline for applications is due August 1 and space is limited. Selected participants will be notified by August 8.

The event is free for participants with lodging and most meals provided, however, transportation to and from the event must be provide by the participant.

For more information and to apply for the event, visit NCAT’s website here. The application can also be downloaded here.

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