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.

Anti-Corporate Farming Bill Reaches ND Ag Committee

Posted March 4, 2015

The North Dakota House Agriculture Committee will vote on the proposed changes to the state’s anti-corporate farming law, according to a Grand Forks Herald article available here. AgWeek also published an article available here.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Dennis Johnson, R-Devils Lake, said that SB 2351 is scheduled at 8 a.m. March 5 in the Brynhild Haugland Room. Johnson expects the committee to work toward a vote on March 6 and that it will go to the floor as early as March 9 or 10.

The bill is probably the most contentious of any agriculture bills remaining and both sides are likely to “double down” in the House debate, according to Johnson.

SB 2351 would allow non-family corporations to own and operate dairy and swine farms, and would allow each farm to own or control up to 640 acres of farmland, according to AgWeek.

The North Dakota Farmers Union (NDFU) have released a poll that revealed 75 percent of North Dakotans would vote against the bill, if given a chance.

The NDFU sponsored the poll, and DFM Research of St. Paul conducted phone interviews of 400 North Dakotans.

Approximately 86 percent of respondents said they thought the state’s agriculture economy is best left in the hands of farmers. The poll has a 5 percent margin of error.

Mark Watne, NDFU president, said the poll reflects his organization’s “long-held belief that when it comes to production agriculture, family farmers and ranchers should be the ones who farm and own the land in North Dakota, not corporations.”

The poll also identified respondents by political party with 39 percent Republican, 26 percent Democrat, and 34 percent Independent.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Joe Miller, R-Park River, predicts the bill will pass and will be signed by the governor, according to Grand Forks Herald.

“It’s logical to make this move because it’s the only notable barrier, in the law anyway,” said Miller. “I don’t look at it as discriminatory legally because these two operations are similar in how they care for animals, in enclosed situations, where a (cattle) feedlot is much more open.”

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

Senators Reintroduce Antibiotic Prevention Legislation

Posted March 4, 2015

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) reintroduced the Prevention of Antibiotic Resistance Act (PARA), according to a Food Safety News article available here. The Wall Street Journal also published an article here, Feedstuffs here, and Meating Place here.

The bill was previously introduced in June 2013, and it would require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to withdraw its approval of medically important antibiotics used for disease prevention or control that are at a high abuse risk.

The legislation also stipulates criteria for determining when an antibiotic is considered safe and effective, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“This lays out a plan for FDA to go forward and standards for determining judicious use of antibiotics in food-producing animals,” says Gail Hansen, a public health veterinarian and senior officer for the antibiotic resistance project at the Pew Charitable Trusts. “The FDA has talked about growth promotion, but that’s only part of how drugs are used for food animals. This is the next big part.”

Sponsors said that the bill addresses a gap in the previous guidelines to eliminate the antibiotics use to make animals gain weight, according to Feedstuffs.

The FDA estimated that 107 antibiotics are used for therapeutic purposes, including disease prevention or control, do not have a defined duration of therapy or are labeled for continuous use. An analysis by the Pew Charitable Trusts estimated that 83 antibiotics used for disease prevention or control have an overlapping dose with a production use.

“These antibiotics are at high risk of being inappropriately administered, which could pose a risk to human health,” said Feinstein.

The American Public Health Association, the Infectious Disease Society of America, Trust for America’s Health, the American College of Preventive Medicine, and the Pew Charitable Trusts endorsed the bill, according to Meating Place.

For more information, the prevention of Antibiotic Resistance Act is available here.

For more information on antibiotic use in agriculture, an article from the Congressional Research Service is available here.

Environmental Groups Suing EPA Over Declining Butterfly Population

Posted March 2, 2015

An environmental group sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) accusing regulators of discounting the dangers of a widely used herbicide threatening the declining monarch butterfly population, according to Reuters. NBC News also published an article available here and MSN News here.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed suit against the (EPA) in U.S. District Court in New York. The suit alleged the agency has failed to regard warnings about the dangers to monarchs posed by glyphosate, the key ingredient in a widely used herbicide such as, Monsanto Co's Roundup and other herbicides.

Federal law requires EPA to ensure that pesticides it approves will not cause "unreasonable adverse effects on the environment, including wildlife," the lawsuit states. "However, the agency has never considered glyphosate's impacts on monarchs," according to NBC News.

“EPA is taking a number of measures to protect the monarch butterfly and other pollinators. With regard to pesticide exposure, EPA is looking holistically at all herbicides, not only glyphosate, to determine the effects on monarchs and resources critical to butterfly populations,” the agency said.

The lawsuit states that the monarch population has declined from 1 billion in 1997 to 56.6 million this winter, and it seeks a court order to force EPA to evaluate the effects of glyphosate on the monarch’s population, according to MSN.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has launched a $3.2 million campaign to aid in efforts supporting the butterfly’s habitat.

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

Vilsack Extends ARC & PLC Deadlines

Posted March 2, 2015

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that a one-time extension will be provided to producers for the new safety-net programs established by the 2014 Farm Bill, known as Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC), according to a USDA release available here. Farm Futures also published an article available here and THV 11 here.

The final day to update yield history or reallocate base acres has been extended one additional month from Feb. 27, 2015. The final day for farm owners and producers to choose ARC or PLC coverage also remains March 31, 2015.

“This is an important decision for producers, because these programs provide financial protection against unexpected changes in the marketplace. Producers are working to make the best decision they can. And we're working to ensure that they've got the time, the information, and the opportunities to have those final conversations, review their data, and to visit the Farm Service Agency to make those decisions,” said Vilsack.

Vilsack said that the extended deadline was primarily due to the challenges with southern operations, according to Farm Futures.

“Based on our most recent best guess we have roughly 60% of farm operations that have made the (base acre) election.”

The extension was made, says Tony Franco, chief of farm programs for USDA's Farm Service Agency in Arkansas, “because of the complexity of the farm ill,” according to THV 11.

Producers needing more information on the programs, Agricultural Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage. can contact their local Farm Service Agency office or go to www.fsa.usda.gov/arc-plc.

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

Regulators Approve GMO Apples, Resist Browning

Posted February 17, 2015

U.S. regulators have approved two genetically engineered apple varieties designed to resist browning, according to an Ag Professional article available here. The Des Moines Register also published an article available here and Reuters here.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) approved the new apples that were developed by the Canadian biotech company Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc., as “unlikely to pose a plant pest risk to agriculture.”

The apples, Arctic Granny and Arctic Golden, are identical to their conventional counterparts except that they will not turn brown.

Neal Carter, president and founder of Okanagan, said he is confident that apple growers and consumers will accept the apples, according to The Des Moines Register.

“It looks like an apple, tastes like an apple and grows like an apple,” said Carter. Critics “can say whatever they want but we got the evidence. It's an apple in every way.”

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) petitioned the USDA to deny approval, and said the genetic changes that prevent browning could be harmful to human health, and pesticide levels on the apples could be excessive, according to Reuters.

The Food and Drug Administration, which has no mandatory review process for genetically engineered foods, is examining the new apples through a voluntary consultation with Okanagan.

Okanagan said its apples have undergone “rigorous review,” and are “likely the most tested apples on the planet.”

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

Syngenta Considering Counterclaims in Corn Biotech Lawsuits

Posted February 17, 2015

Syngenta AG may file counterclaims against some of the 750 plus U.S. grain farmers and exporters who have sued them over sales of biotech corn seed that disrupted trading with China last year, according to an Ag Professional article available here. STL Today also published an article available here and Reuters here.

Syngenta, the world's largest crop chemicals company, is “assessing the scope for potential counterclaims” in response to lawsuits over Agrisure Viptera corn, also known as MIR 162.

Last year, global grain handlers Cargill Inc. and Archer Daniels Midland Co., along with hundreds of farmers, sued Syngenta for damages from China rejecting shipments of U.S. crops that contained Viptera corn, according to STL Today.

At the time, the trait was approved for planting in the United States, but it was not approved for import by China, a major corn buyer.

As of Jan. 28, 762 lawsuits had been filed, according to Syngenta’s SEC filing on Thursday, and the company claims the suits are without merit.

Syngenta counterclaiming is "a lot of puffery," said lawyer Paul Hanly of Simmons Hanly Conroy, which is representing clients suing the seed maker, according to Reuters.

“I'm really hard-pressed to see what the theory would be, other than some sort of disparagement claim,” he said, adding that he believes a disparagement counterclaim would be baseless.

Lawsuits against Syngenta have been consolidated in Syngenta AG MIR162 Corn Litigation, U.S. District Court, District of Kansas, No 14-md-02591. (Reporting by Tom Polansek; Editing by Paul Simao)

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