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.

NOAA Issues Five Rules Dealing with Marine Fisheries


Posted November 21, 2014

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued this final rule to implement management measures described in a framework amendment to the Fishery Management Plan for the Coastal Migratory Pelagic (CMP) Resources in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Region (FMP) (Framework Amendment 1).

This final rule announced inseason changes to management measures in the Pacific Coast groundfish fisheries that is intended to allow fisheries to access more abundant groundfish stocks while protecting overfished and depleted stocks.

NOAA is prohibiting directed fishing for dusky rockfish in the Western Regulatory Area of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) to prevent exceeding the 2014 total allowable catch of dusky rockfish in the Western Regulatory Area of the GOA.

NOAA is prohibiting directed fishing for Pacific ocean perch in the Western Regulatory Area of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) to prevent exceeding the 2014 total allowable catch of Pacific ocean perch in the Western Regulatory Area of the GOA.

NOAA is prohibiting directed fishing for northern rockfish in the Western Regulatory Area of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) to prevent exceeding the 2014 total allowable catch of northern rockfish in the Western Regulatory Area of the GOA.

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

Threatened Status and Critical Habitat Designation Issued for Gunnison sage-grouse


Posted November 21, 2014


On November 21, 2014 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued two final rules dealing with the Gunnison sage-grouse. 

The Gunnison sage-grouse is a bird species from parts of Colorado and Utah.  The first final rule, 79 FR 69191, added the Gunnison sage-grouse to the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife under the Endangered Species Act. The second final rule, 79 FR 69311, designated approximately 1.5 million acres of lands in Colorado and Utah as critical habitat for the Gunnison sage-grouse.

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

Farm Groups Urge Section 179 Restoration


Posted November 20, 2014

The National Milk Producers Federation along with 41 other agricultural organizations in are urging Congress to restore Section 179 code provision that allows small businesses and farms to write off capital purchases such as farming equipment immediately as opposed to over time, according to a Wisconsin Ag Connection article available here. Farm Futures also published an article available here and Agri-Pulse here.

The provision is one of more than 50 expired tax policies expected to be under consideration for reinstatement by the House and Senate during their post-election lame duck session. Farm groups have pushed restoration of Section 179 in a letter on November 18 to congressional leadership.

"Farming requires significant investments in machinery and equipment," said NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern. "By allowing farmers to immediately write off these purchases on their taxes, Section 179 gives producers an incentive to invest in their businesses while it reduced their record-keeping burden."

Previously farmers were able to take full depreciation deductible of an eligible item in the current tax year with a maximum deduction of $500,000 and a phase-out threshold of $2 million, according to Farm Futures.

Now the deduction level has fallen to $25,000 with a $200,000 phase-out for 2014 unless Congress acts on tax reform or a "tax extenders" package before the year’s end.

In a conference call with reporters, Dorothy Coleman, vice president of tax and domestic policy with the National Association of Manufacturers, said the focus of the letters “is not on telling Congress how to do it, but asking them and strongly urging them to get it done,” according to Agri-Pulse.

If the provision is not addressed during the lame duck session, tax extenders could still be approved in 2015 and retroactively applied to 2014 purchases.

A copy of the letter signed by 42 agriculture organizations and addressed to the Senate and House leadership outlining the importance of Section 179 in a potential tax extenders package is available here.

Two identical letters addressed separately were sent to all members of the House and Senate, and more than 500 organizations, companies, and local chambers of commerce signed the letters emphasizing the importance of action during the lame duck session.

For more information on estate planning and taxation, please visit the National Agricultural Law Center’s website here.

Conaway Selected New House Ag Committee


Photo credit: Mike Conaway
Posted November 20, 2014

Rep. Michael Conaway, R-Texas has been name Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, according to a Southwest Farm Press article available here. Farm Futures also published an article available here and Feedstuffs here.

After Conaway was selected as the 50th chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, he issued the following statement.

"I am humbled and honored to be selected as the 50th chairman of the storied House Committee on Agriculture. The work that farmers and ranchers do is part of our country's foundation. They feed, fuel, and clothe our nation. I look forward to building on the bipartisan work of the chairmen who have led this committee for the past two centuries.”

Ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., congratulated Conaway on his new position, according to Farm Futures.

"As a fellow CPA, I think we can find common ground as the Committee oversees farm bill implementation and reauthorizing the CFTC during the next Congress," Peterson said in a released statement. "The Agriculture Committee has a strong bipartisan tradition, which I look forward to continuing under Chairman Conaway.

Earlier this year Conaway voted in support of the 2014 Farm Bill.

American Soybean Association (ASA) first vice president Wade Cowan congratulated Conaway on behalf of the ASA, according to Feedstuffs.

"Rep. Conaway has a proven track record of representing farmers not only in West Central Texas, but across the country, and he will make a fine chairman," said Cowan. "As chair of the Agricultural Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management, Rep. Conaway exhibited fluent understanding of the complex issues that shape the nation's farm program, and how those issues can impact soybean farmers in the field. With this understanding, we are confident that soybean farmer issues will continue to be well represented within the Committee, and we look forward to working with him and his able staff."

Temporary Injunction Granted on Maui GMO Law


Posted November 18, 2014

A federal judge has granted a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit filed by Monsanto Hawaiʻi against the County of Maui, according to a Maui News article available here. ABC KITV also published an article available here and Honolulu Civil Beat here.

The lawsuit prevents the new genetically modified organisms (GMO) initiative from taking effect until the court reevaluates its legal merits.

The opinion also delays “the significant negative consequences this initiative, if enacted, would have on our employees, the local economy, Hawaiʻi agriculture and business in Maui County,” said company representatives.

The injunction will end on December 5, according to ABC KITV.

County voters passed the law with a narrow margin on November 4.

In the lawsuit, the companies stated that it’s “unfair for the county to ban genetically engineered farming until the county studies the public health and environmental effects and the County Council deems it’s safe,” according to Civil Beat.

The lawsuit comes after five Maui County residents and a nonprofit, the SHAKA Movement, sued the county, Monsanto, and Dow AgroSciences in state court to ensure that the ban would be enforced.

For more information on the GMO labeling, the National Agricultural Law Center is hosting a webinar November 19 and information is available on the website here.

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

Farm Organizations, ATPs Reach Agreement on Big Data


Posted November 14, 2014

U.S. farm organizations and agriculture technology providers (ATPs) have reached an agreement on data privacy and security principles that will “encourage the use and development of a full range of innovative, technology-driven tools and services to boost the productivity, efficiency and profitability of American agriculture,” according to an American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) release available here. The Wall Street Journal also published an article available here and Agri-Pulse here.

“The principles released today provide a measure of needed certainty to farmers regarding the protection of their data,” said Bob Stallman, president of AFBF. “Farmers using these technology-driven tools will help feed a growing world while also providing quantifiable environmental benefits. These principles are meant to be inclusive and we hope other farm organizations and ATPs join this collaborative effort in protecting farm-level data as well as educating farmers about this revolutionary technology.”

A data-driven farming approach has increased farmers’ production and reduced financial costs, but some farmers are still concerned about the safety of their information, according to The Wall Street Journal.

AFBF has warned farmers that seed companies may influence farmers to purchase more seeds or direct farmers to purchase particular equipment.

Farmers will send large amounts of business and production information to ATPs concerning their planting, production, and harvesting practices. Companies utilize that data to produce “field prescriptions and benchmarks that provide valuable information farmers can use to make decisions on when, how and which crop varieties to plant, and optimize the application of crop protection and fertilizer inputs,” according to Agri-Pulse.

Other groups or companies supporting the principles are: American Soybean Association, Beck's Hybrids, Dow AgroSciences LLC, DuPont Pioneer, John Deere, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union, Raven Industries, The Climate Corporation - a division of Monsanto, and USA Rice Federation.

For more information, a copy of the data privacy and security principles agreement is available here.