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.

Rough Week for U.S., Japan Trade Talks

Posted September 30, 2014

Trade talks with Japan experienced a bumpy week when both countries blamed the other for a “stalemate over farm exports,” according to a Reuters article by Krista Hughes and Linda Sieg available here. Wisconsin Ag Connection also published their article here and Cattle Network here, and Feedstuffs published an article available here.

On Wednesday, U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman and Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari met in Washington to discuss bilateral Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.

“While there were constructive working level discussions over the weekend, we were unable to make further progress on the key outstanding issues,” USTR said in a statement, according to Feedstuffs.

The TPP is a regional trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim countries, including Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the United States, which makes up for almost 40 percent of global GDP.

U.S. pork producers believe the Japanese are to blame for the halt in negotiations, according to Reuters.

The Japanese have been, and continue to be, holding up the entire negotiation. They've got to fish or cut bait," said Nick Giordano, National Pork Producers Council vice president.

U.S. President Barack Obama anticipates a TPP agreement by the end of the year, but others are not so sure.

"There will have to come a time that the U.S. realizes that unless they are flexible, they will not have a package, or else they (negotiations) may continue for an indefinite time," said a Japanese government source.

At a Friday meeting, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed both sides could do more on TPP, and Biden said that he would go back to work to find a solution.

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

Eloy Farmer Fighting for Reclassification

Posted September 29, 2014

An Eloy farm owner, Michael McKenzie, is battling the Pinal County Assessor’s Office to prove his small-scale organic operation is an “active farm,” according to a TriValley Central article by Melissa St. Aude available here. Pinal Partnership also published Aude’s article here and Lucky Nickel Ranch here.

Last year, the Assessor’s Office revoked the agricultural land classification for the 32-acre farm. McKenzie is appealing the decision in fear of property taxes tripling if he is not successful.

“I’ve had my agricultural status for 15 years and suddenly, they’re revoking it, saying it’s not an active farm,” said McKenzie.

McKenzie is an organic certified produce grower and serves as an incubator site for aspiring farmers. The farm is also used as a teaching tool for students, and has been used in a veteran training program since 1999.

County Assessor Doug Wolf did not comment on McKenzie’s case, but he said that hundreds of people appeal the office’s valuation decisions each year.

“We want citizens to challenge us and appeal when they think we’re wrong,” said Wolf. “We want everybody’s valuation to be just and fair.”

The state requires the Assessor’s Office to re-examine classifications in about 25 percent of the county every four years.

The Board of Equalization rules in favor of the appellant in approximately 30 percent of cases.   

People who lose their appeal may challenge the board’s decision in state tax court, said Wolf.

McKenzie’s Board of Equalization hearing is scheduled for 1:20 p.m. on Wednesday in Pinal County Administration Building A, 31 N. Pinal St. in Florence. The hearing is open to the public.

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

Bridge to Clean Energy Future Act Introduced

Posted September 25, 2014

Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa have introduced a bill titled the Bridge to a Clean Energy Future Act of 2014, or H.R. 5559, according to an Ethanol Producer article by Erin Voegele available here. BioMass also published Voegele’s article here, and Domestic Fuel published an article here.

The bill was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means and received 16 additional signatures from Congress members.

“I’m eager to push this across the finish line this Congress,” said Blumenauer.

“My state of Oregon is a leader in renewable energy technologies, and Dave’s state of Iowa is the second largest wind energy producer in the nation, so we understand the importance of stability and security in the clean energy sector. His help will be important in advancing this legislation. Making sure these energy sources are on an even playing field with the fossil fuel industry is essential to lowering carbon emissions, creating a cleaner environment, and creating good, non-exportable American jobs,” according to Domestic Fuel.

By creating a “tax landscape” for renewable energy, representatives are able to participate in a fair market with other energy sources that create a healthier environment and thousands of jobs.

“The Production Tax Credit has helped the still-growing U.S. wind energy industry employ 80,000 Americans, including thousands of Iowans,” said Loebsack.

The bill would extend the 30 percent investment take credit for alternative vehicle refueling property, up to $30,000, for two years, through 2015. Eligible refueling property includes fuel pumps for ethanol, biodiesel, hydrogen, and compressed or liquefied natural gas, according to Ethanol Producer.

“For our nation to move towards energy independence and continued job growth, we need to prioritize clean energy like wind and act immediately to pass this extension of the PTC,” said Loebsack, according to Domestic Fuel.

For more information, please visit Congress’ website here.

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

FBI to Track Animal Cruelty Cases

Posted September 24, 2014

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will start tracking animal cruelty cases, according to a USA Today article by Susan Wyatt available here. Newswire also published an article available here and Huffington Post here.

Local agencies will also track cruelty cases and report them to the FBI.

"No longer will extremely violent cases be included in the "other offense" category simply because the victims were animals. Just as the FBI tracks hate crimes and other important categories, we will now have critical data on animal cruelty,"  said Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

Prior to this expansion, there was no process for capturing animal cruelty data on a statewide or national level, according to the Huffington Post.

The new information will be included in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report creating an incentive for law enforcement agencies to more closely monitor these incidents.

Examples of animal cruelty, include “instances of duty to provide care, e.g., shelter, food, water, care if sick or injured; transporting or confining an animal in a manner likely to cause injury or death; causing an animal to fight with another; and inflicting excessive or repeated unnecessary pain or suffering, e.g., uses objects to beat or injure an animal," according to Newswire.

The definition does not include proper maintenance of animals for show or sport or use of animals for food, lawful hunting, fishing or trapping.

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

IDWR to Conduct Winter Aquifer Recharge Effort

Posted September 23, 2014

The Idaho Department of Water Resources (IDWR) and three irrigation water providers will conduct the state’s first extensive winter aquifer recharge effort, according to a Capital Press article by John O’Connell available here.

American Falls Reservoir District No. 2, Southwest Irrigation District and Twin Falls Canal Co. joined the pilot project because of a new tiered payment program that awards greater payments per acre foot for longer durations of recharge. The program utilizes a state-held recharge right, which remains a priority throughout winter to maintain a base flow of 500 cubic feet per second below Milner.

IDWR deputy director Mat Weaver said the state has an annual goal of recharging at least 100,000 acre feet with a scheduled increase of 250,000 acre feet in the next few years. However, IDWR has only averaged 75,000 acre feet per year since 2009. The tiered structure is expected to make recharge more cost-effective during winter with no competition with canal maintenance but weather is a hassle.

IDWR is also encouraging Northside Canal Co. to participate in the project and address concerns about water freezing in hydropower turbines on the company’s main canal. Eventually, Harmon hopes to recharge every other year, rotating shifts with Northside, and conducting more in-depth system maintenance in off years.

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

EPA Decided Against Appealing Federal Ruling

Posted September 23, 2014

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has decided to not appeal the key federal ruling in favor of Lois Alt, a West Virginia farmer, according to an American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) release available here. A previous blog post on the case is available here.

In October 2013, the U.S. Court for the Northern District of West Virginia earlier ruled in favor of farmer Lois Alt. The court rejected EPA’s contention that the “Clean Water Act regulates ordinary stormwater runoff from the farmyard (non-production areas) at large livestock or poultry farms.”

A federal court has never addressed the question of stormwater runoff from farms so the ruling carries implication for tens of thousands of poultry and livestock farms. EPA’s “voluntary dismissal” is most likely the result of the agency’s desire to avoid a loss in the appellate court. The appeal could still move forward if any of the five environmental groups that intervened in support of EPA wish to move forward without the government.

“EPA knows its effort to regulate perfectly well-run farms cannot withstand legal scrutiny, and the agency doesn’t quite know how to deal with that,” AFBF President Bob Stallman said. Both AFBF and the West Virginia Farm Bureau joined the suit on the side of Alt. “Apparently, the agency would rather move on and continue pursuing its regulatory agenda farm-to-farm, but not defend it in court.” Although EPA’s motivation seems self-evident, said Stallman, “you wouldn’t know it from the agency’s spin machine.”

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