We’ve quickly reached the end of January, and several of the legal issues I’ve talked about in OSU’s “Agricultural Outlook” meetings have surfaced this month. If the current pace keeps up, 2022 promises to be a busy year for agricultural law. Here’s a review of three legal issues I predict we’ll see that have already begun to emerge in 2022.
Water, water. From defining WOTUS to addressing Lake Erie water quality, water law will continue to be everywhere this year. The U.S. Supreme Court just announced on January 24 that it will hear the well-known case of Sackett v EPA to review whether the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals used the proper test to determine whether wetlands are “waters of the United States” (WOTUS). The case is one example of the ongoing push-pull in the WOTUS definition, which establishes waters that are subject to the federal Clean Water Act. The Biden administration proposed a new WOTUS rule last December that would replace the Trump-era rule, and comments remain open on that definition until February 7. Ohio has wrangled with its own water issues, particularly with agricultural nutrient impacts on water quality. We’ll see this year if the state will continue to rely on H2Ohio and similar incentive-based programs and whether the Ohio EPA will face additional litigation over its development of a Total Maximum Daily Load for Lake Erie.
Pesticide challenges. The EPA announced a new policy on January 11 to more closely evaluate potential effects of pesticide active ingredients on endangered species and critical habitats. That was the same day the agency re-registered Enlist One and Enlist Duo pesticides, but with new label restrictions and prohibited use in hundreds of counties across the U.S., including a dozen Ohio counties. An EPA report documenting dicamba damage in 2021 could form the basis for yet another lawsuit this year demanding that EPA vacate dicamba’s registration. Meanwhile, we await a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on whether it will review Hardeman v. Monsanto, one of dozens of cases awarding damages against Monsanto (now Bayer) for personal injury harms caused by glyphosate.
Opposition to livestock production practices. Ohio pork producers watching California’s Proposition 12 will be happy with a recent California court decision prohibiting enforcement of one part of the law that went into effect on January 1. The provision requires any pork and eggs sold in the state to be from breeding pigs and laying hens that are not raised in a “cruel manner,” meaning that the animals have a certain amount of usable pen space. The California court agreed with grocers and other retailers that the law could not be enforced on sales of pork meat because the state hasn’t yet finalized its regulations. The law could be subject to further scrutiny from a higher court. Several agricultural organizations have unsuccessfully challenged the law as a violation of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, but one of those cases currently awaits a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on whether it will review the case. Other livestock production issues we’ll see this year include continued battles over Right to Farm laws that limit nuisance lawsuits against farms, and challenges to “ag gag” laws that aim to prevent or punish undercover investigations on farms.
There’s more to come. Watch for more of our predictions on what 2022 may bring to the agricultural law arena in upcoming posts. Or drop into one of our Agricultural Outlook and Policy meetings to hear my Ag Law Outlook. As quickly as the year is moving, we’ll soon know how many of those predictions are correct.
Tags: WOTUS, water quality, tmdl, pesticides, dicamba, glyphosate, California Proposition 12, animal welfare, commerce clause, Ag Gag, right to farm, nuisance
Did you know that female turkeys can lay a fertilized egg without mating? This process is called parthenogenesis, a type of asexual reproduction that can also occur in other types of animals including invertebrates, fish, and lizards. In turkeys, this process always produces a male chick. The likelihood of an embryo from parthenogenesis surviving to chick-hood is small, but possible.
In this edition of the Ag Law Harvest and in the spirit of Thanksgiving, we are thankful for the opportunity to present to you the newly proposed definition of “waters of the United States”, Kansas’s battle to protect agricultural facilities, and food labeling cases from across the country.
EPA and Army Corps of Engineers propose rule to establish the definition of “waters of the United States.” The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers announced a proposed rule to return the definition of “waters of the United States” (“WOTUS”) to the pre-2015 definition with a few updates to reflect Supreme Court decisions. In 2020, the Navigable Waters Protection Rule went into effect and interpreted WOTUS to include: “(1) territorial seas and traditional navigable waters; (2) tributaries of such waters; (3) certain lakes, ponds, and impoundments of jurisdictional waters; and (4) wetlands adjacent to other jurisdictional waters (other than jurisdictional wetlands).” On January 20, 2021, President Biden signed Executive Order 13990 directing all executive agencies to review and address any federal regulations that went into effect during the previous administration. After reviewing the Trump Administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule, the agencies determined that the rule is significantly reducing clean water protections. The new rule proposed by the agencies seeks to interpret WOTUS to include: (1) traditional navigable waters; (2) interstate waters; (3) the territorial seas and their adjacent wetlands; (4) most impoundments of WOTUS; (5) tributaries to traditional navigable waters, interstate waters, the territorial seas, and impoundments, that meet either the relatively permanent standard of the significant nexus standard; (6) wetlands adjacent to impoundments and tributaries, that meet either the relatively permanent standard or the significant nexus standard; and (7) “other waters” that meet either the relatively permanent standard or the significant nexus standard. The agencies will be taking comment on the proposed rule for 60 days once the rule is published in the Federal Register.
Kansas Attorney General asks Supreme Court to review Kansas “Ag Gag” Law. Derek Schmidt, Attorney General of Kansas, has asked the United States Supreme Court to review the Kansas Farm Animal and Field Crop and Research Facilities Protection Act (the “Act”) which criminalizes the unauthorized access to agricultural facilities without consent of the owner of the facility with the intent to damage the business of the facility. Under the Act, consent is not effective if it is “[i]nduced by force, fraud, deception, duress or threat.” Earlier this year, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals found the Kansas law to be unconstitutional by violating the free speech clause in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and prohibited Kansas from enforcing the Act. Now, Derek Schmidt has petitioned the Supreme Court to review the Kansas law arguing that the Act does not violate the First Amendment because the Act regulates conduct not speech. The Attorney General goes on to argue that even if trespass by deception were to be considered a form of speech, it is a form of speech that is not protected by the First Amendment. The Attorney General reasoned that the Act protects a private property owner’s right to exclude and that the First Amendment does not provide a license to violate a person’s property rights.
Oklahoma’s meat labeling law on trial. Earlier this month, the Plant Based Foods Association and the Tofurky Company (“Plaintiffs”) filed an amended complaint challenging Oklahoma’s Meat Consumer Protection Act (the “Act”) alleging that the Act violates the dormant commerce clause, the due process clause, and the supremacy clause of the United States Constitution. Plaintiffs allege that the Oklahoma law “institutes a protectionist trade barrier” that is contrary to and preempted by federal law. According to Plaintiffs, the Act “forbids plant-based meat producers from using meat terms unless they include a disclaimer on their product labels in the same type size and prominence to the ‘name of the product’ that their plant-based products are not actually meat derived from animals.” Plaintiffs argue that the Oklahoma law would require plant-based meat producers to develop Oklahoma specific labels or abandon the Oklahoma market which is essentially interfering with interstate commerce and in violation of established federal law. This case is set for trial in 2022. But, this is not the first time the Oklahoma law has been challenged on constitutional grounds. Plant Based Foods Association and Upton’s Naturals Company also filed suit alleging the Oklahoma law violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution. However, a Federal District Court in Oklahoma denied an injunction to prevent Oklahoma from enforcing the law. The court found that the disclosure requirement in the Act is reasonably related to Oklahoma’s interest in preventing the confusion or deception of consumers. The court reasoned that the commercial speech at issue could potentially be misleading to reasonable consumer. The court argued that “the possibility of deception flowing from the use of meat-related terms for the plant-based products is self-evident from the natural inference a consumer would draw from the meat-related terms used.” This not the end of the battle for the Oklahoma law, there will likely be appeals to higher courts to help settle the dispute.
Pepperidge Farm sued over “Golden Butter” cracker label. Hawa Kamara decided to file a lawsuit against Pepperidge Farm, Inc. after purchasing “Golden Butter” crackers at a local Target store in New York. According to the ingredients list attached to Kamara’s complaint, the crackers were made with butter but also included vegetable oils. Kamara asserted that the presence of vegetable oils makes the “Golden Butter” packaging misleading and/or deceptive because a reasonable consumer would conclude the crackers were “all or predominantly made with butter.” A Federal District Court in New York, however, did not find the packaging misleading or deceptive. The court reasoned that “the packaging accurately indicated that the product contained butter, and the ingredients list confirmed that butter predominated over other oils and fats.” Further, the court argued that a reasonable consumer could believe the “Golden Butter” labeling described the product’s flavor and not the ingredient proportions. Ultimately, the court decided to dismiss the case against Pepperidge Farm because Kamara’s complaint did not plausibly allege that the “Golden Butter” packaging materially misrepresented the ingredients in the crackers.
Thank you for reading and we hope that everyone has a happy and safe Thanksgiving!!
Tags: WOTUS, Food Labeling, EPA, Army Corps of Engineers, Ag Gag, U.S. Constitution