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Written by Ellen Essman, Law Fellow, OSU Agricultural & Resource Law Program
On May 17, 2017, the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) and two of its members filed suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. ELPC filed the lawsuit to compel the EPA to either accept or reject Ohio’s list of impaired waters. In April, the National Wildlife Federation and other groups sued the EPA in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for the same reason. For more information on the first lawsuit and a more thorough background on the topic, read our previous blog post.
Federal regulation under the Clean Water Act requires states to submit lists every two years of waters they determine to be impaired. The regulation also requires the EPA to either accept or reject the state listings within thirty days. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency submitted its list of impaired waters on October 20, 2016. The list did not include the open waters of the western basin of Lake Erie. The EPA has not made a decision on Ohio’s list.
To make the situation more complex, Michigan did include its share of the open waters of the western basin of Lake Erie on its list. What is more, the EPA approved of Michigan’s impaired waters list. The plaintiffs in both of these lawsuits seem to hope that forcing the EPA to make a decision on Ohio’s impaired list will resolve the differences in the two states’ listing of waters in the same general area of Lake Erie.
ELPC filed the lawsuit in the Toledo office of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, citing its proximity to Lake Erie, and in particular, to the pollution problem in the western basin of the lake. ELPC’s press release on its lawsuit is available here.
Ohio's Senate has settled on its solution for fixing Ohio's CAUV formula. The Senate unanimously passed S.B. 36 yesterday after the Senate Ways and Means Committee adopted two amendments to the bill. The legislation aims to stem recent increases in property taxes for farmland enrolled in Ohio's Current Agricultural Use Valuation (CAUV) program. The Senate's bill will ensure that the CAUV formula "sticks to valuing farmland based on agricultural production," stated the bill's sponsor, Sen. Cliff Hite (R-Findlay).
In addition to including new factors in the CAUV formula, making changes to the capitalization rate calculation and addressing rates used for conservation lands (explained in detail in our earlier post on S.B. 36), the bill passed by the Senate yesterday contained two new provisions:
- A three year phase-in of the changes to the CAUV formula, which would begin the first tax year after 2016 in which a county's sexennial appraisal or triennial update occurs. The purpose of the phase-in is to reduce the financial impact of lowered property valuations on school districts.
- Replacement of the seven year rolling average determination of the equity yield rate with an equity yield rate that equals the 25-year average of the "total rate of return on farm equity" determined by the United States Department of Agriculture but that cannot exceed the loan interest rate used in the debt factor of the capitalization rate computation.
Last week, Ohio's House passed legislation containing different solutions for revising the CAUV program in H.B. 49 (see our summary of H.B. 49 here). Senate leaders yesterday indicated a willingness to work with the House to resolve the differences between the two bills. H.B. 49 is now before the Senate Finance Committee.
Written by: Chris Hogan, Law Fellow, OSU Agricultural & Resource Law Program
The Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) is delaying the implementation of the Farmer Fair Practices rules. GIPSA is a USDA agency that facilitates the marketing of livestock, poultry, meat, cereals, oilseeds, and related agricultural products. One purpose of GIPSA is to promote fair and competitive trading practices for the benefit of consumers and agriculture.
On April 11, 2017, the USDA announced that GIPSA delayed the implementation of the Farmer Fair Practices rules until October 19, 2017. The delayed Farmer Fair Practices rules were originally set to be effective on December 20, 2016. According to the USDA, the delayed rules would protect chicken growers from retaliation by processors when growers explore opportunities with other processors, discuss quality concerns with processors, or when refusing to make expensive upgrades to facilities. GIPSA concludes that the Farmer Fair Practices rules alleviates these issues. However, several livestock groups argue that the delayed rules would have adverse economic effects on the livestock industry.
Opportunity for Public Comment
During the delay, the USDA is seeking public comment on the Farmer Fair Practices rules. The comment period offers the agricultural community an opportunity to suggest what action the USDA should take in regard to the Farmer Fair Practices rules. The USDA asked the public to suggest one of four actions that the USDA should take:
- Let the delayed rules become effective
- Suspend the delayed rules indefinitely
- Delay the effective date of the delayed rules further, or
- Withdraw the delayed rules
After receiving public comments, the USDA will consider the comments and make an informed decision regarding the delayed Farmer Fair Practices rules. According to Drovers, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue recently visited Kansas City, Missouri to speak with farmers, ranchers, and industry members. During the event, Secretary Perdue responded to a question about the GIPSA rule. “We’re going to look at it very closely,” said Perdue. The full Drovers article is here.