meat processing

Vintage cowgirl on a horse with a lasso
By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Monday, June 06th, 2022

It's time for another roundup of legal questions we've been receiving in the Agricultural & Resource Law Program.  Our sampling this month includes registering a business, starting a butchery, noxious weed liability in a farm lease situation, promoting local craft beer at a farmers market, herd share agreements, and agritourism's exemption from zoning.  Read on to hear the answers to these questions from across the state.

I want to name my farm business but am not an LLC or corporation.  Do I have to register the name I want to use for the business?

Yes, if your business name won’t be your personal name and even if the business is not a formally organized entity such as an LLC.  You must register the business with the Ohio Secretary of State.  First, make sure the name you want to use is not already registered by another business.  Check the name availability using the Secretary of State’s business name search tool at https://businesssearch.ohiosos.gov/.  If the name is available, register the name with the Secretary of State using the form at https://www.sos.state.oh.us/businesses/filing-forms--fee-schedule/#name.  If there is already a business registered with the name you want to use, you might be able to register a similar name if your proposed name is “distinguishable” from the registered name. The Secretary of State reviews names to make sure they are not already registered and are distinguishable from similar names.  See the Guide to Name Availability page for examples of when names are or are not distinguishable from one another.

I am interested in starting a small butchery.  What resources and information are helpful for beginning this endeavor?

There are legal issues associated with beginning a meat processing operation, and there are also feasibility issues to first consider.  A good resource for initial considerations to make for starting a meat processing business is this toolkit from OSU at https://meatsci.osu.edu/programs/meat-processing-business-toolkit.   A similar resource that targets niche meat marketers is at https://www.nichemeatprocessing.org/get-started/.  On the legal side, requirements vary depending on whether you will only process meat as a custom operator or fully inspected operator, and if you also want to sell the meat through your own meat market.  The Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Division of Meat Inspection has licensing information for different types of processors here:  https://agri.ohio.gov/divisions/meat-inspection/home.  If you also want to have a retail meat market, you’ll need a retail food establishment (RFE) license from your local health department.  To help you with that process, it’s likely that your health department will have a food facility plan review resource like this one from the Putnam County Health Department.

Is Ohio’s noxious weeds law enforceable against the tenant operator of my farm, or just against me as the landowner?

Ohio’s noxious weed law states that the township trustees, upon receiving written information that noxious weeds are on land in their township, must notify the “owner, lessee, agent, or tenant having charge of the land.”  This language means that the trustees are to notify a tenant operator if the operator is the one who is in charge of the land where the noxious weeds exist.  The law then requires the notified party –which should be the tenant operator—to cut or destroy the noxious weeds within five days or show why there is no need to do so.  The concern with a rental situation like yours is that if the tenant does not destroy the weeds in five days, the law requires the township to hire someone to do so and assess the costs of removal as a lien on the land.  This puts you as the landowner at risk of financial responsibility for the lien and would require you to seek recourse against the tenant operator if you want to recover those costs.  Another option is to take care of removing the noxious weeds yourself, but that could possibly expose you to a claim of crop damages from the tenant operator.  A written farm lease can address this situation by clearing shifting the responsibility for noxious weeds in the crop to the tenant operator and stating how to deal with crop damages if the landowner must step in and destroy the noxious weeds.

Can we promote local craft beers at our farmers market?

Ohio established a new “F-11” permit in H.B. 674 last year.  The F-11 is a temporary permit that allows a qualifying non-profit organization to organize and conduct an event that introduces, showcases, or promotes Ohio craft beers that are sold at the event. There are restrictions on how long the event can last, how much beer can be sold, who can participate in the event, and requirements that food must also be sold at the event. The permit is $60 per day for up to 3 days.  Learn more about the permit on the Department of Commerce website at  https://com.ohio.gov/divisions-and-programs/liquor-control/new-permit-info/guides-and-resources/permit-class-types.

Can a goat herdsman legally provide goat milk through a herd share agreement program? 

Herd share agreements raise the raw milk controversy and whether it’s legal or safe to sell or consume raw milk.  Ohio statutory law does clearly prohibit the sales of raw milk to an “ultimate consumer” in ORC 971.04, on the basis that raw milk poses a food safety risk to consumers.  But the law does not prohibit animal owners from consuming raw milk from their own animals.  A herd share agreement sells ownership in an animal, rather than selling the raw milk from the animal.  Under the agreement, a person who pays the producer for a share of ownership in the animal may take their share of milk from the animal.  The Ohio Department of Agriculture challenged the use of herd share agreements as illegal in the 2006 case of Schitmeyer v. ODA, but the court did not uphold the ODA’s attempt to revoke the license of the dairy that was using herd share agreements.  As a result, it appears that the herd share agreement approach for raw milk sales is currently legally acceptable.  But many still claim that raw milk consumption is risky because the lack of pasteurization can allow harmful bacteria to exist in the milk. 

Can the township prohibit me from having a farm animal petting zoo on my hay farm?

It depends whether you qualify for the “agritourism exemption” granted in Ohio law.  The agritourism exemption states that a county or township can’t use its zoning authority to prohibit “agritourism,” although it may have same zoning regulations that affect agritourism buildings, parking lots, and access to and from the property.  “Agritourism” is an agriculturally related entertainment, recreational, cultural, educational or historical activity that takes place on a working farm where a certain amount of commercial agricultural production is also taking place. If you have more than ten acres in commercial production, like growing and selling your alfalfa, or you have less than ten acres but averaged more than $2,500 in gross sales from your alfalfa, you qualify under the agritourism exemption and the township zoning authorities cannot prohibit you from having your petting zoo.  However, any zoning regulations the township has for ingress and egress on your property, buildings used primarily for your petting zoo, or necessary parking areas would apply to your petting zoo activity. If you don't qualify as "agritourism," the township zoning regulations could apply to the petting zoo activity, and you must determine whether a petting zoo is a permitted use according to your zoning district, which could depend upon whether or not you want to operate the petting zoo as a commercial business.

 

 

 

 

By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Tuesday, August 10th, 2021

I recall sharing my concern with a professor when I was in law school:  how will I ever know all the answers to legal questions?  No worries, he said.  You can’t know the answer to every legal question, but you do need to know how to find the answers.  I think of that advice often as legal questions come across my desk.   

We’ve had a steady stream of them this summer, and the questions provide a snapshot of what’s going on around the state.  Here’s a sampling of questions we’ve received recently, complete with our answers—some we knew and some we had to find.

What do you know about the $500 million to be set aside at USDA for meat processors—who will administer it and what is the timeline?  USDA published a notice on July 16, 2021 titled “Investments and Opportunities for Meat and Poultry Processing Infrastructure” seeking input on how to allocate the funds.  The notice solicits comments on how to address challenges and increase competition in meat and poultry processing through the $500 million in infrastructure and other investments.  USDA is looking at current programs, combinations of programs, and potential programs that can leverage the funds to expand and diversify meat and poultry processing capacity and make the supply chain more resilient.  A review of the questions USDA raised in the notice gives a good indication of the types of programs we might see, and administration of the programs could be at both the federal and state levels. The comments are due by August 30, 2021 and USDA will review them before moving forward.  It will be at least several months before decisions are made and the funds are available.

If I enroll my land in the Wetlands Reserve Program, does the land still qualify for Current Agricultural Use Valuation tax treatment?  Yes.  Ohio’s CAUV law allows eligible land to be assessed as agricultural land for property taxation under the CAUV formula.  Eligible land is “land devoted exclusively to agricultural use.”  The definition of that term is important, and the relevant section that places wetlands and other conservation practices within that definition is ORC 5713.30(A)(1(c), which states that "land devoted exclusively to agricultural use" include tracts, lots, or parcels of land with at least ten acres which “were devoted to and qualified for payments or other compensation under a land retirement or conservation program under an agreement with an agency of the federal government.”  According to court cases in Ohio, wetlands enrolled in federal conservation programs fit within this term and should qualify for CAUV treatment, even wetlands used as a mitigation bank.  An Ohio Attorney General opinion disagrees that a wetlands mitigation bank is a government conservation program, but that is an advisory rather than binding opinion and a mitigation bank is not the same as the federal Wetlands Reserve Program.

Are there any special requirements for a cottage food producer for selling “gluten free” or “vegan” products?   Yes.  You need to ensure that you meet federal regulations to use “gluten free” terminology on your cottage food label.  There isn’t a label review and approval process for using the language, though, as it’s “self-policing.” You must be sure that your product does not include any gluten containing ingredients.  And because low levels of gluten could result from cross contamination in your kitchen, your product must be below the tolerance level of 20 ppm of gluten.  There isn’t a testing requirement to prove that you’re under 20 ppm before you sell it, but if for some reason someone challenged your product or ODA randomly sampled it, it must meet the 20 ppm standard.  You can have your food lab tested if you want to have that assurance.  Otherwise, you should carefully manage your kitchen to reduce cross contamination.  The FDA provides the gluten free labeling rule on its website  and has a helpful FAQ page also.  FDA has said it will be updating the gluten free rule, but I haven’t seen anything new yet.

Vegan labeling is a lesser regulatory concern.  If you use that or related terms like “animal free” on your product, federal law requires that you be “truthful and not misleading” to the consumer.  There isn’t a federal or state definition of “vegan” to help with that determination, but the agencies explain the term basically as not containing any animal products.  Your ingredient list should confirm any vegan or animal free claims on the product.

Are there regulations pertaining to online sales of perennial plants?  Yes. The seller must obtain a nursery license from the Ohio Department of Agriculture.  The type of license will depend on their type of sales.  A phytosanitary certificate might also be required by the importing states where their sales will take place; ODA also handles those certificates.  Additionally, the seller will need to obtain a vendor’s license from the Department of Taxation to collect and submit sales tax on the plant sales.

Does a “Scenic River” designation by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources allow the agency to take my property that’s along the river?  No.  The language in the Scenic Rivers statute is misleading, as it states that “the area shall include lands adjacent to the watercourse in sufficient width to preserve, protect, and develop the natural character of the watercourse, but shall not include any lands more than one thousand feet from the normal waterlines of the watercourse unless an additional width is necessary to preserve water conservation, scenic, fish, wildlife, historic, or outdoor recreation values.”  Without reading the entire statute, it does sound as though ODNR could be laying some type of claim to up to 1,000 feet of the lands adjacent to the river.  However, further along in the statute is this language that prohibits the agency from having any authority over the private land:  “Declaration by the director that an area is a wild, scenic, or recreational river area does not authorize the director or any governmental agency or political subdivision to restrict the use of land by the owner thereof or any person acting under the landowner's authority or to enter upon the land and does not expand or abridge the regulatory authority of any governmental agency or political subdivision over the area.”  The designation is a declaration, and not a land claim, transfer of rights, or a taking.  Additionally, my further research indicates that ODNR has never used eminent domain to take private property along a scenic river, nor does it have funding allocated from the legislature to purchase scenic river lands.

Do I need a license to make and sell egg noodles from the farm?  Yes.  Egg noodles don’t fall under Ohio’s Cottage Food Law, which allows you to make and sell certain low-risk “cottage foods” with little regulation or licensing requirements.  Instead, producing egg noodles for sale from a home kitchen requires a home bakery registration.  You obtain the registration from the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Division.  It requires that you submit a request for inspection form, pass an inspection of the home, and submit a $10 fee.  The inspection will confirm that walls, ceilings and floors are clean, easily cleanable and in good repair; the kitchen does not have carpeted floors; there are no pets or pests in the home; the kitchen, equipment and utensils are maintained in a sanitary condition; the kitchen has a mechanical refrigerator capable of maintaining 45 degrees and equipped with a thermometer; if the home has a private well, proof of a well test completed within the past year showing a negative test result for coliform bacteria; the food label meets labeling requirements.

Is raising and training dogs considered “animal husbandry” for purposes of d the agricultural exemption from township zoning authority?   Yes. The Ohio Supreme Court held in Harris v. Rootstown Twp. that “the raising and care of dogs constitutes animal husbandry and is included in the term “agriculture” within the meaning of R.C. 519.01.”  This means that the agricultural exemption in Ohio Revised Code 519.21 applies to raising and caring for dogs, and township zoning can’t prohibit the use of any lot over five acres for those purposes.  The township would have limited regulatory authority over dog raising on smaller lots in some situations, though.  There is often confusion among townships over how to classify dogs, and that may be because they differ from what we typically think of as “farm animals.”  But the Rootstown Twp. case, along with many other appellate level cases in Ohio, confirm that dogs are to be treated the same as “livestock” for purposes of the agricultural exemption from zoning.  

Can both landowners be assessed half the cost of removal of noxious weeds that are growing in a partition fence?  Maybe.  The Ohio line fence law does allow a township to step in and clear the fence row of noxious weeds, brush, briers and similar vegetation if a complaint is filed by one landowner against an adjacent landowner who refuses to clear the weeds.  The costs for doing so are assessed back on the refusing landowner whose fence row was cleared.  If the noxious weeds arise from both sides of the fence, are growing in the fence, and must be cleared from both sides of the fence, the township trustees would have the authority to assess the costs of removal back on both landowners. I’ve never heard of that happening, but it’s certainly one of those “be careful what you wish for” situations.

Logos

By: Ellen Essman, Monday, August 10th, 2020

Welcome to August! Despite the fact that most of us haven’t seen much besides the inside of our homes lately, the world still turns, which is also true for the gears in Washington D.C.  In this issue of the Ag Law Harvest, we will take a look at some recently introduced and passed federal legislation, as well as a proposed federal rule.

Great American Outdoors Act is a go.  The Great American Outdoors Act, one of the last pieces of legislation introduced by the late Representative John Lewis, was signed into law by the President on August 4.  The new law secures funding for deferred maintenance projects on federal lands.  The funding will come from 50% of the revenues from oil, gas, coal, or alternative energy development on federal lands.  The funding will be broken down between numerous agencies, with 70% to the National Park Service each year, 15% to the Forest Service, 5% to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 5% to the Bureau of Land Management, and 5% to the Bureau of Indian Education.  You can read the law in its entirety here.

A meat processing slowdown for worker safety? In addition to the Great American Outdoors Act, numerous bills have been introduced to help farmers, ag-related businesses, and rural areas in the wake of COVID-19.  For instance, in early July, Ohio’s own Representative from the 11th District, Marcia Fudge, introduced H.R. 7521, which would suspend increases in line speeds at meat and poultry establishments during the pandemic.  Notably, if passed, the bill would “suspend implementation of, and conversion to the New Swine Slaughter Inspection System,” which has been planned since the USDA published the final rule in October of 2019. It would also make the USDA suspend any waivers for certain establishments related to increasing line speed.  The resolution was introduced to protect the safety of workers, animals, and food.  In theory, slower line speeds would make it easier for workers to social distance. This is especially important in the wake of outbreaks among workers at many processing plants.  On July 28, Senator Cory Booker introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

Will livestock markets become more competitive?  On July 9, a group of Representatives from Iowa introduced H.R. 7501.  The bill would amend the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 “to foster efficient markets and increase competition and transparency among packers that purchase livestock from producers.  To achieve this outcome, the bill would require packers to obtain at least 50% of their livestock through “spot market sales” every week.  This means that the packers would be required to buy from producers not affiliated with the packer. “Unaffiliated producers” would have less than a 1 percent equity interest in the packer (and vice versa), no directors, employees, etc. that are directors, employees, etc. of the packer, and no fiduciary responsibility to the packer.  Additionally, the packer would not have an equity interest in a nonaffiliated producer.  Basically, this bill would make it easier for independent producers to sell to packers. This bill is a companion to a Senate Bill 3693, which we discussed in a March edition of the Ag Law Harvest. According

New bill would make changes to FIFRA.  Just last week, a new bill was proposed in both the House and Senate that would alter the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.  The bill is called the “Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act of 2020.” In a press release, the sponsoring Senator, Tom Udall, and Representative, Joe Neguse, explained that the proposed law would ban organophosphate insecticides, neonicotinoid insecticides, and the herbicide paraquat, which are linked to harmful effects in humans and the environment.  Furthermore, the law would allow individuals to petition the EPA to identify dangerous pesticides, close the loopholes allowing EPA to issue emergency exemptions and conditional registrations to use pesticides before they are fully vetted, allow communities to pass tougher laws on pesticides without state preemption, and press the pause button on pesticides found to be unsafe by the E.U. or Canada until they undergo EPA review.  Finally, the bill would make employers report pesticide-caused injuries, direct the EPA to work with pesticide manufacturers on labeling, and require manufacturers to include Spanish instructions on labels.  You can read the text of the bill here

USDA AMS publishes proposed Organic Rule.  Moving on to federal happenings outside Congress, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service published a proposed rule on August 5. The rule would amend current regulations for organic foods by strengthening “oversight of the production, handling certification, marketing, and sale of organic agricultural products.” The rule would make it easier to detect any fraud, trace organic products, and would make organic certification practices for producers more uniform.  Anyone interested in commenting on this proposed rule has until October 5, 2020 to do so.  You can find information on how to submit a comment on the website linked above. 

By: Ellen Essman, Friday, July 17th, 2020

Written by Ellen Essman and Peggy Hall

 

This edition of the Ag Law Harvest has a little bit of everything—Ohio and federal legislation responding to COVID issues, new USDA guidance on bioengineered foods, and a judicial review of Bayer’s Roundup settlement.  Read on to learn about the legal issues currently affecting agriculture.  

Ohio COVID-19 immunity bill stalls.  While the Ohio House and Senate agree with the concept of immunity for COVID-19 transmissions, the two chambers don’t yet see eye-to-eye on the parameters for COVID-19 liability protection.  H.B. 606, which we reported on here, has passed both the House and Senate, but the Senate added several amendments to the legislation.  The House won’t be addressing those amendments soon because it’s in recess, and doesn’t plan to return for business until at least September 15.   The primary point of disagreement between the two bills concerns whether there should be a rebuttable presumption for Bureau of Workers’ Compensation coverage that certain employees who contract COVID-19 contracted it while in the workplace.  The Senate amendment change by the Senate concerns exemption from immunity for "intentional conduct," changed to "intentional misconduct.”  Currently, there is not a plan for the House to consider the Senate’s amendments before September 15.

Lawmakers propose bill to avoid more backlogs at processing plants.

Most people are aware that the COVID-19 pandemic created a huge backlog and supply chain problem in U.S. meatpacking plants.  A group of bipartisan representatives in the House recently proposed the

Requiring Assistance to Meat Processors for Upgrading Plants Act, or RAMP-UP Act.  The bill would provide grants up to $100,000 to meat and poultry processing plants so the plants could make improvements in order to avoid the kind of problems caused by the pandemic in the future.  The plants would have to provide their own matching funds for the improvements.  You can find the bill here

Revisiting the Paycheck Protection Program, again.  In a refreshing display of non-partisanship, Congress passed legislation in late June to extend the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).  Employers who haven’t taken advantage of PPP now have until August 8, 2020 to apply for PPP funds to cover payroll and certain other expenses.  Several senators also introduced the Paycheck Protection Program Small Business Forgiveness Act, a proposal to streamline an automatic approval process for forgiveness of PPP loans under $150,000, but there’s been little action on the bill to date.  Meanwhile, the American Farm Bureau Federation is in discussion with the Senate on its proposal for other changes to PPP that would expand access to PPP for agriculture.

More clarification for bioengineered food disclosure. You may recall that the National Bioengineered Food Law was passed by Congress in 2016.  The legislation tasked USDA with creating a national mandatory standard for disclosing bioengineered foods. The standard was implemented at the beginning of 2020, but USDA still needed to publish guidance on validating a refining process and selecting an acceptable testing method.  On July 8, 2020, that guidance was published. The guidance provides steps for industry to take when validating a food refining process under the rule.  A lot of food refining processes remove traces of modified genetic material. So, if a refining process is validated, there is no further need to test for bioengineered material to disclose.  The guidance also contains instructions on testing methods. Basically, “any regulated entity that is using a food on the AMS List of Bioengineered Foods and does not want to include a bioengineered food disclosure because the food or ingredient is highly refined and does not include detectable modified genetic material” should follow these testing instructions. Therefore, any entity with highly refined foods that do “not include detectable modified genetic material” should follow the recently published guidance. 

Bayer settlement proposal under scrutiny.  Last month, Bayer, the owner of Roundup, announced that it would settle around 9,500 lawsuits related to alleged injuries caused by using the product.  Not only was the proposal supposed to settle previous lawsuits, but it was also meant to address any future lawsuits stemming from purported injuries caused by Roundup.  A judge from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California recently pumped the breaks on this plan, stating that any settlement that would resolve “all future claims” against Roundup must first be approved by the court.  A hearing will be held on July 24, where the court will decide whether or not to “grant preliminary approval of the settlement.”

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