National Agricultural Policy: USDA Allocates $2.3 Billion in CCC Funds for Trade Promotion, Surplus Commodity Purchases
On October 24, 2023, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA will allocate $2.3 billion in Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) funds for agricultural trade promotion and international food aid. According to the announcement, $1.3 billion will fund a new Regional Agricultural Promotion Program and $1 billion will fund purchases of surplus U.S. commodities for distribution through USAID. See also ALWR—Oct. 2, 2023, “GAO Decision Finds USDA’s Use of Commodity Credit Corporation Funds Lawful.”

Technology: USDA Rural Development Allows Loan, Grant Use for Rural Broadband Expansion
On October 19, 2023, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Utilities Service, Rural Housing Service, Rural Business-Cooperative Service, and Farm Service Agency (FSA) published in the Federal Register a final rule, confirmation, and comment response (88 FR 71987) to their 2020 final rule titled “Special Authority To Enable Funding of Broadband and Smart Utility Facilities Across Select Rural Development Programs” (85 FR 57077). The final rule will allow recipients of Rural Development (RD) loans and grants “to use up to 10 percent of the amount provided to construct broadband infrastructure in areas not served by the minimum acceptable level of broadband service.” The final rule became effective on October 19, 2023.

Antitrust: Federal Court Denies Agri Stats’ Request to Seal Lawsuit
On October 18, 2023, the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota entered an order denying a motion to seal the complaint in a case alleging that Agri Stats, Inc., a meat industry data company, illegally “organiz[ed] and manage[ed] anticompetitive information exchanges among broiler chicken, pork, and turkey processors” in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. U.S. v. Agri Stats, No. 0:23-cv-03009. Agri Stats filed a motion to seal “sensitive information” in the U.S. Justice Department’s (DOJ) original complaint, stating that the complaint “contain[ed] . . . confidential information including direct quotes from documents and testimony in pending litigation” designated by the company as confidential. Agri Stats alleged that DOJ’s use of the information “violates . . . the Government’s nondisclosure obligations under relevant statutes, regulations, and agreement between the Government and Agri Stats to keep its information confidential.” The Court rejected Agri Stats’ argument, stating “the statute’s text does not express any such limit on DOJ’s authority,” and that “the Amended Antitrust Civil Process Act . . . states that when a [DOJ] lawyer appears in a case before a court, material gathered by [Civil Investigative Demands] may be used in the manner ‘such attorney determines to be required.’” See ALWR – Oct. 9, 2023, “Department of Justice Files Antitrust Lawsuit Against Agri Stats.” For more on antitrust issues, see the Center’s Agricultural Antitrust Issue Tracker.

Agribusiness: Commodity Futures Trading Commission Fines Grain Procurement Company $3 Million for Attempted Price Manipulation of Oats Futures
On October 23, 2023, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) issued an order imposing $3 million in sanctions against Minnesota-based Ceres Global Ag Corporation for attempting to manipulate oats futures contract prices in 2016 and 2017, in violation of the Commodity Exchange Act. Also announced by the Commission, CFTC states that “senior personnel at Ceres knew about and facilitated the building of large long positions at or close to the spot month speculative limits, holding those long positions into the delivery period, and taking delivery of oats, intending both to boost the price of oat futures in those contracts and to obtain higher quality oats at lower delivery prices.”

Agricultural Labor: White House Publishes H-2B Worker Protection Taskforce Report
On October 19, 2023, the White House announced the publication of a report titled “Strengthening Protections for H-2B Temporary Workers.” The report identified several actions to “advance protections for H-2B and H-2A workers” to be taken by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Labor (DOL), Department of State, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), including 1) “[C]larifying that a worker who has remained in the U.S. longer than initially permitted due to a workplace labor dispute will be protected from certain adverse immigration consequences [and] expediting prosecutorial discretion for such workers where appropriate,” 2) “Leveraging existing data to increase transparency,” including publishing information on DHS’s H-2B Data Hub, and 3) “Establishing a standing Interagency H-2 Worker Protection Working Group.” For more agricultural labor issues, see the Center’s H-2A Program Issue Tracker.

Avian Influenza: Iowa and California Confirm HPAI in Commercial Turkey Flocks
On October 23, 2023, the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship announced that the agency had confirmed two cases of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in commercial turkey flocks in the state. Additionally, on October 26, 2023, the California Department of Food and Agriculture updated its Avian Influenza Updates webpage to confirm a HPAI case in a commercial turkey flock in Merced County. The HPAI cases were also confirmed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and reflected in APHIS’s HPAI Confirmed Detections database.

International Trade: Farm Groups, Legislators Request Commerce Department Review of Moroccan Fertilizer Tariffs
On October 19, 2023, sixty-three agricultural and farm groups, including the National Corn Growers Association and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), submitted a letter to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo requesting that the department “reconsider its duty rate calculation” for duties on phosphate fertilizers imported from Morocco. The letter discusses the September 2023 opinion and order from the U.S. Court of International Trade (CIT) which remanded Commerce’s “final affirmative countervailing duty determination” back to the department for “reconsideration of [its] decision to exclude” relevant factors and expenses in the calculation. Mosaic Company v. United States, No. 21-00116 (Ct. Intl. Trade). The groups “strongly urged” Commerce to conduct a “comprehensive and thorough consideration process” during the administrative review and remand determination because the “ripple effects [of phosphate duties] will greatly impact agriculture,” citing the “high costs and limited availability of fertilizer” as factors Commerce should consider. On October 24, 2023, thirty-nine legislators sent a letter to Secretary Raimondo also urging Commerce “to carefully address the matters determined by the CIT to be in error in the remand determination and in the upcoming final results of the final administrative review.”

Organic Agriculture: Hazelnut Farm Files Complaint Alleging 2023 Organic Enforcement Rule Violates Organic Foods Production Act
On October 17, 2023, Pratum Farm, LLC, an Oregon-based organic hazelnut farm, filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, challenging parts of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) final rule, “Strengthening Organic Enforcement” (SOE) (88 FR 3548), effective March 20, 2023. Pratum Farm v. USDA, No. 6:23-cv-01525. The complaint claims that the SOE Rule “uniquely favors foreign agribusiness” by requiring foreign “accredited certifiers to only do ‘spot check’ inspections” for approximately 2% of foreign farms in a “grower group,” a “group of independently owned and operated farms.” The complaint alleges that this 2% rule “leav[es] inspection of most of the farms to an unaccredited ‘self-inspection’ by means of an honor system” in violation of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA), which requires organic farms to be inspected on an annual basis. See also ALWR—Jan. 30, 2023, “USDA Announces National Organic Program Final Rule.”

Pesticides/Herbicides: FDA Publishes Pesticide Residue Monitoring Report for FY 2021
On October 24, 2023, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the publication of its Pesticide Residue Monitoring Report and Data for the Fiscal Year of 2021. According to FDA, “levels of pesticide residues in the U.S. food supply are well below established safety standards.” See also materials from Understanding the Basics of Pesticides.

Environmental Credit Trading: USDA Publishes Report on ‘Role of Agriculture and Forestry in U.S. Carbon Markets’
On October 23, 2023, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the publication of a report titled “A General Assessment of the Role of Agriculture and Forestry in U.S. Carbon Markets,” published pursuant to the December 2022 Growing Climate Solutions Act (GCSA). According to USDA, “the costs of greenhouse gas quantification, verification, and reporting” reduce producers’ returns on their carbon market investments and “hinder[] the participation of agriculture in [carbon] markets.” USDA states that its “next step in implementing the GCSA is . . . to . . . determin[e] . . . whether to establish the Greenhouse Gas Technical Assistance Provider and Third-Party Verifier Program . . . [and] a process to register market verifiers.”

Food Policy: EPA Publishes Reports on Food Waste, Quantifies Methane Emissions
On October 19, 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the publication of two new food waste reports: “From Field to Bin: The Environmental Impacts of U.S. Food Waste Management Pathways” and “Quantifying Methane Emissions from Landfilled Food Waste.” According to the announcement, the reports signify “the first time EPA has quantified methane emissions from landfilling.” EPA states that the agency “conducted an analysis to estimate annual methane emissions from landfilled food waste from 1990 to 2020 and found that while total emissions from municipal solid waste landfills are decreasing, methane emissions from landfilled food waste are increasing.” See also materials from An Overview of U.S. Charitable Food Surplus Programs.

Agricultural Data: Land Management Advocacy Group Publishes Farm Data Policy Report
On October 17, 2023, Solutions from the Land (SfL), a nonprofit “integrated land management” advocacy group, published a report titled “Data Policy Guidance on Farm Data: Strengthening Collection, Analysis and Use of Agriculture and Food System Data for SDG Attainment.” Also announced by SfL, the report, which was written by several farmers, conveys “a farmers’ view of how data should be collected, analyzed, and used in support of investments, markets, and programs that enable and scale agricultural solutions to Sustainable Development Goal attainment.” SfL states that the report “affirms farmers are the owners of the data they generate on the farm.”

 

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CENTER PROGRAMS & RESOURCES

Podcasts:

Agricultural Law Podcast

248. EPA Reveals Plan to Reform CAFO Regulation under the Clean Water Act (Oct. 17, 2023)

247. Environmental Organizations Sue EPA for Refusal to Expand CAFO Regulation (Oct. 10, 2023)

246. EPA’s Revised WOTUS Rule Conforming to Sackett (Sept. 25, 2023)

Farmland Legal Energy Podcast

159. An Introduction to Hydrogen and Agriculture (Oct. 10, 2023)

158. An Introduction to Anaerobic Digestion (Sept. 26, 2023)

Events:

Understanding Agricultural Law Series. A free monthly Zoom webinar series for all agricultural and rural business advisors. One hour of substantive CLE credit available for Pennsylvania-licensed attorneys at no charge. Recordings and materials from the series, more information, and registration available here. Upcoming:

Legal Considerations for Retail Farmers Market Part 2

  • Tues. Oct. 31, 2023, noon–1 pm (ET), Virtual. Staff Attorney Brook Duer will present with the Small Business Development Center.

Keystone Crops and Soils Conference

  • Nov. 2, 2023. In person at the Grantville Holiday Inn. Staff Attorney Brook Duer will present “PA Fertilizer Law—What You Need to Know to be Compliant” at 2:00pm.

Making Laws Work for You, Part 1: Ag Security Areas, Farmland Preservation, and Clean & Green

  • Mon. Nov. 6, 2023, noon–1:30pm (ET). Virtual. Staff attorney Brook Duer will present with the Small Business Development Center.

Making Laws Work for You, Part 2: Right to Farm, ACRE, and the Agritourism Activity Protection Act

  • Mon. Dec. 11, 2023, noon–1:30pm (ET). Virtual. Staff attorney Brook Duer will present with the Small Business Development Center.

2023 Annual Agricultural and Environmental Law Conference

  • Nov. 16, 2023. In-person at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Annapolis. Staff Attorney Brook Duer will present “HPAI: How Can We Miss You, If You Won’t Go Away?” at 12:45pm.

Resources of Interest:

Ohio St. Univ. Ext. Farm Off. Blog, Income Tax Schools at The Ohio State University, Jeffrey Lewis (Oct. 20, 2023)

Nat’l Agric. Law Ctr., Members of Congress Propose Bills to Amend the Federal Crop Insurance Program, Samantha Capaldo (Oct. 19, 2023)

Ohio St. Univ. Ext. Farm Off. Blog, Agricultural easements can address farmland preservation and farm transition goals, Peggy Hall (Oct. 18, 2023)

Southern Ag Today, Sectoral and Regional Concentration of H-2A Patronage, Cesar Escalante (Oct. 18, 2023)

Nat’l Agric. Law Ctr., Spotlighting State Restrictions on Foreign Land Investments: Alabama, Micah Brown (Oct. 17, 2023)

Univ. Md. Risk Mgmt. Educ. Blog, UME Leads the Next Generation of the Statewide Nutrient Management Program, Paul Goeringer (Oct. 17, 2023)

Southern Ag Today, Balance of Trade Has Shifted as Beef Production has Decreased, Kenny Burdine (Oct. 17, 2023)

Southern Ag Today, Russian Wheat Production and World Wheat Market Fundamentals, Mark Welch (Oct. 16, 2023)

Tex. A&M Agric. Law Blog, 2023 USDA Land Values Summary, Tiffany Lashmet (Oct. 16, 2023)

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FEDERAL ACTIONS—EXECUTIVE & LEGISLATIVE

U.S DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE (USDA) PRESS RELEASES

Biden-Harris Administration Announces Availability of Nearly $50 Million to Strengthen Forest Products Economy, Forest Sector Jobs as part of Investing in America Agenda (Oct. 18, 2023)

USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program Pays More Than $1.77 Billion to America’s Producers in Support of Conservation and Climate-Smart Agriculture (Oct. 16, 2023)

USDA Highlights Progress in Partnering with Farmers to Increase Innovative Domestic Fertilizer Production, Expand Double Cropping through Investing in America Agenda (Oct. 16, 2023)

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (EPA) PRESS RELEASES

EPA Finalizes Rule to Require Enhanced PFAS Reporting to the Toxics Release Inventory (Oct. 20, 2023)

EPA Releases New Food Waste Reports (Oct. 19, 2023)

EPA Proposes Rule to Strengthen TSCA Risk Evaluation Process to Protect Workers and Communities (Oct. 19, 2023)

EPA to Review Cleanups at 40 Southeast Superfund Sites (Oct. 19, 2023)

EPA Hazardous Materials Removal, First Stage of Multi-Phase Cleanup, is 75% Complete on Maui (Oct. 18, 2023)

Kansas Ethanol Producer Agrees to Pay Penalty for Alleged Environmental Law Violations (Oct. 18, 2023)

EPA Seeks Additional Public Engagement on Proposal to Protect U.S. Waters from Incidental Discharges from Vessels (Oct. 17, 2023)

EPA and OSHA Investigations Lead to Convictions of Company Officials in Deadly Mill Explosion Case (Oct. 17, 2023)

USDA AGENCY PRESS RELEASES:

Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)

USDA Restricts PACA Violators in Connecticut, New York and Texas from Operating in the Produce Industry (Oct. 16, 2023)

USDA Lifts PACA Reparation Sanctions on Illinois Produce Business (Oct. 16, 2023)

Agricultural Research Service (ARS)

Do Adult Cicadas Actually Feed on Anything? (Oct. 18, 2023)

Geospatial Technology Can Help Corn Producers Assess Potential Wind Damage in Fields (Oct. 17, 2023)

Study Finds Wildfire Isn’t Primary Factor in Invasive Annual Grass Expansion in Great Basin (Oct. 16, 2023)

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)

APHIS Announces Partnership to Improve Early Detection of Emerging Animal Diseases (Oct. 17, 2023)

Food and Nutrition Service (FNS)

Bridging the Gap in SNAP E&T (Oct. 16, 2023)

Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)

Constituent Update – October 20, 2023 (Oct. 20, 2023)

Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS)

USDA Under Secretary Taylor to Lead Trade Mission to Southeast Asia (Oct. 19, 2023)

USDA FAS State Fact Sheets Show Trade Wins for All 50 States (Oct. 18, 2023)

Forest Service

USDA Announces Availability of Nearly $50 million to strengthen forest products economy, forest sector jobs as part of Investing in America agenda (Oct. 18, 2023)

National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)

USDA Research Investments Spur New Agricultural Markets (Oct. 19, 2023)

USDA NIFA Invests $4.8 Million in Community Food Projects (Oct. 18, 2023)

Vanilla Could Be the Next Big Crop for Small Farmers in Southern Florida (Oct. 16, 2023)

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Maximizing Cover Crop Benefits with Cereal Rye Variety Mixes (Oct. 19, 2023)

NRCS Announces FY2024 ACEP Easement IRA Application Batching Date (Oct. 19, 2023)

Federal, State Officials Launch New Training Center for Ag Professionals in Pennsylvania (Oct. 19, 2023)

USDA-NRCS Farm Bill Conservation Program and Inflation Reduction Act Climate-Smart Practices Signup Now Open (Oct. 17, 2023)

Producers Encouraged to Apply for Irrigation Cost Share by November 17th (Oct. 16, 2023)

Funds Available to Help Producers Add Soil Carbon Conservation Practices (Oct. 16, 2023)

National IRA Funding for Conservation Easements Now Available To Pennsylvania Landowners (Oct. 16, 2023)

FEDERAL EXECUTIVE AGENCIES (Federal Register Oct. 16–20, 2023):   

Agriculture Department

88 FR 71818 Notice—Comment Period: “Submission for OMB Review; Comment Request [Foreign Agricultural Service: Export Sales of U.S. Agricultural Commodities]” (Oct. 18, 2023)

Agricultural Marketing Service

88 FR 71459 Rule: “United States Standards for Grades of Processed Raisins” (Oct. 17, 2023)

88 FR 71273 Proposed Rule—Comment Period: “Raisins Produced From Grapes Grown in California; Temporary Suspension of Continuance Referendum” (Oct. 16, 2023)

88 FR 71302 Proposed Rule—Comment Period: “Natural Grass Sod Promotion, Research, and Information Order; Referendum Procedures” (Oct. 16, 2023)

88 FR 71306 Proposed Rule—Comment Period: “Natural Grass Sod Promotion, Research, and Information Order” (Oct. 16, 2023)

Environmental Protection Agency

88 FR 72372 Rule: “Finding That Lead Emissions From Aircraft Engines That Operate on Leaded Fuel Cause or Contribute to Air Pollution That May Reasonably Be Anticipated To Endanger Public Health and Welfare” (Oct. 20, 2023)

88 FR 71856 Notice—Comment Period: “Pesticide Registration Review; Proposed Decisions for Several Pesticides; Notice of Availability” (Oct. 18, 2023)

88 FR 71788 Proposed Rule—Comment Period: “Vessel Incidental Discharge National Standards of Performance” (Oct. 18, 2023)

88 FR 71757 Rule: “Findings of Failure To Submit State Implementation Plan Revisions for Reclassified Moderate Nonattainment Areas for the 2015 Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)” (Oct. 18, 2023)

88 FR 71855 Notice—Comment Period: “Pesticide Registration Review; Decisions and Case Closures for Several Pesticides; Notice of Availability” (Oct. 18, 2023)

88 FR 71853 Notice—Comment Period: “Pesticide Registration Review; Pesticide Dockets Opened for Review and Comment; Notice of Availability” (Oct. 18, 2023)

Federal Crop Insurance Corporation

88 FR 71731 Rule—Comment Period: “Transparency in Policy Cancellations” (Oct. 18, 2023)

Food and Nutrition Service

88 FR 72419 Notice—Comment Period: “Agency Information Collection Activities: Employment and Training Opportunities in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program” (Oct. 20, 2023)

Rural Utilities Service

88 FR 71987 Rule: “Special Authority To Enable Funding of Broadband and Smart Utility Facilities Across Select Rural Development Programs” (Oct. 19, 2023)

U.S. HOUSE AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE:

No new Actions

U.S. SENATE COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE, NUTRITION, AND FORESTRY:

S.3093 “Healthy Meals Help Kids Learn Act of 2023” Read twice and referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. (Oct. 19, 2023)

S.3097 “O DAIRY Act of 2023” Read twice and referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. (Oct. 19, 2023)

S.3089 “Fairness for Victims of SNAP Skimming Act of 2023” Read twice and referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. (Oct. 19, 2023)

S.3063 “Jobs in the Woods Act” Read twice and referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. (Oct. 17, 2023)

STATE ACTIONS—EXECUTIVE & LEGISLATIVE 

PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE PRESS RELEASES:

Shapiro Administration Invites Foodbanks, Soup Kitchens To Apply For $2.5 Million In 2nd Round Of Emergency Food Assistance Funding (Oct. 17, 2023)

PENNSYLVANIA EXECUTIVE AGENCIES (Pa. Bulletin Vol. 53, No. 41—Oct. 14, 2023): 

Department of Agriculture

53 Pa.B. 6714 “Federal Specialty Crop Block Grant Program; 2024 Program Guidelines”

Department of Environmental Protection

53 Pa.B. 6716 Notice: “Applications for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permits And Water Quality Management (WQM) Permits Under the Clean Streams Law and Federal Clean Water Act”

53 Pa.B. 6782 Notice: “Draft 2024 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report; Available for Public Comment”

State Conservation Committee

53 Pa.B. 6810 Notice: “Action on Odor Management Plans for Concentrated Animal Operations and Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations and Volunteers Complying with the Commonwealth’s Facility Odor Management Program”

PENNSYLVANIA LEGISLATURE

SB 746 “An Act amending the act of December 7, 1982 (P.L.784, No.225), known as the Dog Law, in short title and definitions, further providing for definitions; in licenses, tags and kennels, further providing for issuance of dog licenses, compensation, proof required, deposit of funds, records, license sales, rules and regulations, failure to comply, unlawful acts and penalty, for applications for dog licenses, fees and penalties, for kennels, for requirements for kennels, for revocation or refusal of kennel licenses, for dogs temporarily in the Commonwealth and for health certificates for importation; in offenses of dogs, further providing for dog bites and detentions and isolation of dogs; in dangerous dogs, further providing for court proceedings, certificate of registration and disposition, for requirements, for public safety and penalties and for construction of article; in injury to dogs, further providing for selling, bartering or trading dogs; in enforcement and penalties, further providing for enforcement of this act by the secretary and provisions for inspections and for enforcement and penalties; in sterilization of dogs and cats, further providing for definitions; and imposing penalties.” Third consideration and final passage (Oct. 18, 2023)

 

Contributors:
Victoria Dutterer—Research Assistant
Avery McLean—Research Assistant
Lonzie Helms—Research Assistant
Audry Thompson—Staff Attorney