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.

Meat Packer Warned of CWA Violations

Posted April 13, 2015

An environmental group is threatening to sue Bartels Packing, a Lane County slaughterhouse and meat packaging firm, for multiple violations of the federal Clean Water Act, according to a Register Guard article available here. The Eugene Weekly also published an article available here and Corvallis Gazette-Times here.

Portland-based Willamette Riverkeeper says it sent the lawsuit warning notice to Bartels Packing.

The notice lists four violations documented by the state Department of Environmental Quality from 2010 to 2014. Each claims that wastewater or blood waste entered waterways near Fern Ridge Lake. The lake discharges into the Willamette River.

According to a European Commission survey of wastes spread on land, blood applied to land can improve levels of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. But if the percentage of blood in the wastewater is too high, then those nutrients in excess or in waterways can affect the water and fish. The survey says if the blood waste is not incorporated into the land as soon as possible, it can lead to nuisance odors, according to Eugene Weekly.

Kandi Bartels, executive vice president of Bartels, said the company will address the notice with Willamette Riverkeeper, according to Register Guard.

“They’ll learn the truth and hopefully will understand where we’re coming from,” she said.

But Bartels also said the notice is the latest in a “stampede” of what she later called “character assassinations” against the company. “We take no malice against them, but we have a business to run,” Bartels said. “We take these issues seriously.”

Bartels sells meat as Bartels Farms. It is one of only two U.S. Department of Agriculture-­inspected slaughterhouses in Lane County. The other is Mohawk Valley Meats in Springfield.

Riverkeeper says in its letter that it will file suit in 60 days unless Bartels addresses the CWA violations, seek injunctive relief (a court order to stop activities) and “$37,500 in civil penalties for each day of violation,” according to Eugene Weekly.

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

Nursing Home & Medicaid Costs Webinar, OSU Ag Law & Taxation

Posted April 9, 2015

The Ohio State University Extension’s Agriculture Law & Taxation Blog is host a planning for nursing home costs and Medicaid webinar for farmers.

Craig Vandervoort, Sitterly & Vandervoort, Ltd., is hosting the webinar and it is free to register.

To view the webinar, please view their website here on Friday, April 10 from 1-2 p.m. EST.
For more information on the Agriculture Law & Taxation Blog, please visit their website here.

Glyphosate Possibly Linked to Cancer, WHO Report

Posted April 3, 2014

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) is asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to evaluate the herbicide glyphosate, one of the world’s most widely used weed killers. after concerns that the chemical possibly causes cancer, according to The Hill article available here. Capital Press also published an article available here and Fortune here.

The United Nations World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) released a scientific assessment of five organophosphate pesticides last week that found that the insecticides malathion and diazinon, and herbicide glyphosate are “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

IARC also found that parathion and tetrachlorvinphos, found in pet flea treatments, are “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” 

Glyphosate, key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, has been around since 1970 and has been reviewed by multiple regulatory bodies, including the EPA. The EPA originally determined that it might cause cancer, but reversed its decision six years later after re-evaluating the study, according to Fortune.

Sales from Monsanto’s “agriculture productivity products,” which includes Roundup and similar items, account for about a third of the company’s annual revenue.

CEO Hugh Grant said that he didn’t see the issue impacting the business, and that the company will continue to support the product. He called it “unfortunate noise” and a “distraction rather than a reality.”

Michael Greenberg, a physician who is chief of the Division of Medical Toxicology at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, said IARC should “take another look at this,” according to Capital Press.

“From what I can tell, the IARC didn’t really consider all the evidence,” said Greenberg. “There are enormous studies that show glyphosate does not cause cancer.”

A group of advocacy groups have asked the Obama administration to “weigh heavily” WHO’s findings.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, Just Label It, Consumers Union, the Center for Food Safety, Environmental Working Group and the Natural Resources Defense Council, and others wrote the agency should consider the findings as it prepares its preliminary risk assessment of the widely used herbicides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.

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

USDA to Limit Payments to Non-Farmers, 2014 Farm Bill

Posted March 25, 2015

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced a proposed rule to limit farm payments to non-farmers, consistent with requirements Congress mandated in the 2014 Farm Bill, according to the USDA press release available here. Farm Futures also published an article available here.

The proposed rule limits farm payments to individuals who may be designated as farm managers but are not actively engaged in farm management.

"We want to make sure that farm program payments are going to the farmers and farm families that they are intended to help. So we've taken the steps to do that, to the extent that the Farm Bill allows," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "The Farm Bill gave USDA the authority to limit farm program payments to individuals who are not actively engaged in the management of the farming operation on non-family farms. This helps close a loophole that has been taken advantage of by some larger joint ventures and general partnerships."

"Actively engaged" is defined for managers allows individuals with little to no contributions to critical farm management decisions to receive safety net payments if they are classified as farm managers. For some operations, there were an unlimited number of managers that could receive payments, according to Farm Futures.

Under the new proposed rule, non-family joint ventures and general partnerships must document that their managers are making significant contributions to the farming operation, 500 hours of management work per year, or 25% of the critical management time necessary for the success of the farming operation.

As mandated by Congress, family farms will not be impacted. There will also be no change to existing rules for contributions to land, capital, equipment, or labor. Only non-family farm general partnerships or joint ventures comprised of more than one member will be impacted by this proposed rule, according to USDA.

Stakeholders interested in commenting on the proposed definition and changes are encouraged to provide written comments here by May 26, 2015. The proposed rule is available here.

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

CRS Released WOTUS Report

Posted March 24, 2015

On March 25, 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) announced a proposed rule defining the scope of waters protected under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

The proposal revises regulations that have been in place for more than 25 years. Revisions are proposed in light of 2001 and 2006 Supreme Court rulings that interpreted the regulatory scope of the CWA more narrowly than previously, but created uncertainty about the precise effect of the Court’s decisions.

According to the agencies, the proposed rule revises the existing administrative definition of “waters of the United States” consistent with legal rulings and science concerning the interconnectedness of tributaries, wetlands, and other waters and effects of these connections on the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of downstream waters. Waters that are “jurisdictional” are subject to the multiple regulatory requirements of the CWA. Non- jurisdictional waters are not subject to those requirements.

This report describes the proposed rule and includes a table comparing the existing regulatory language that defines “waters of the United States” with the proposed revisions. The proposal focuses on clarifying the regulatory status of waters located in isolated places in a landscape. It does not modify some categories of waters that currently are jurisdictional by rule (traditional navigable waters, interstate waters and wetlands, the territorial seas, and impoundments).

Congressional hearings have been held and are continuing in the 114th Congress. The FY2015 omnibus appropriations act (H.R. 83/P.L. 113-235) includes a provision directing withdrawal of a controversial related interpretive rule on agriculture exemptions, but it contains no restriction on the “waters of the U.S.” proposal. A bill to bar issuance of the rule has been introduced in the 114th Congress (H.R. 594). The House passed similar legislation in the 113th Congress (H.R. 5078). Other 113th Congress bills included S. 2496, H.R. 4923, H.R. 5071, and H.R. 5171.

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

Fireman's Fund to Pay $44M

Posted March 24, 2015

The Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. has agreed to pay $44 million to settle allegations under the False Claims Act, according to an Insurance Journal article available here. Reuters also published an article available here.

According to the allegations, they knowingly issued insurance policies that were ineligible under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) federal crop insurance program and falsified documents.

Between 1999 and 2002, Fireman’s Fund operated a crop insurance business and participated in the federal crop insurance program. Under the program, Fireman’s Fund sold and serviced crop insurance policies that were reinsured by the USDA for a portion of the risks.

Crop insurance protects farmers against losses attributable to natural disasters such as disease, droughts, floods, freezes and hail, as well as falling commodity prices, according to Reuters

The Justice Department said the Fireman's Fund settlement involved no determination of liability.

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