Happy Friday and Happy Thanksgiving to you all next week. Here are a few of the ag law stories in the news over the past couple of weeks. As you will see, there has been lots going on!
*Appellate court affirms liability for compensatory and punitive damages in NC hog farm nuisance cases; Smithfield announces settlement. Major developments happened at the end of this week in the nuisance lawsuits in North Carolina filed against Smithfield subsidiary, Murphy Brown. First, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued an opinion in which it affirmed the juries findings of liability for compensatory and punitive damages, but vacated and remanded the amount of the punitive damage awards. [Read Opinion here.] Shortly after this decision was released, Smithfield announced the parties reached a settlement in the cases. [Read article here.] I’ll have a blog post on this coming out soon, once I’ve had time to thoroughly read the 144-page opinion from the Fourth Circuit.
*FMCSA announces Interim Final Rule “Hours of Service Drivers; Definition of Agricultural Commodity.” The FMCSA has issued a new Interim Final Rule defining several terms related to agriculture as they apply to the Agency’s Hours of Service of Drivers regulations. Once published in the Federal Register, the Interim Final Rule will be open for comment for 30 days. [Read Interim Final Rule here.] I’ll have more details in a forthcoming blog post on this as well.
*Plains Cotton Growers & American Soybean Association file lawsuit challenging new dicamba label restrictions. You may recall from this prior blog post that the EPA recently registered three dicamba pesticides for over-the-top use in soybeans and cotton through 2025. This registration contained new labeling requirements discussed in detail in that blog post, including nationwide cutoff dates and additional buffer requirements. In response to these new labeling requirements, Plains Cotton Growers and the American Soybean Association filed suit against the EPA challenging the new registration. [View Complaint here.]In particular, the plaintiffs claim that the additional restrictions are arbitrary and capricious and exceed the EPA’s authority under FIFRA and the Endangered Species Act. To read a summary of the lawsuit from the National Ag Law Center’s Brigit Rollins, click here.
*FSA reverses earlier rule change defining actively engaged in farming. Earlier this year, the USDA issued a rule related to requirements to qualify as actively engaged in a farming operation, which made family farm operations subject to stricter guidelines that had previously been applicable to non-family operations under the 2018 farm bill. This week, the FSA restored the previous definitions to essentially negate the rule change. In a statement on this reversal, FSA Administrator, Richard Fordyce, explained that it was neither the intent of FSA nor Congress to bring family farm entities under the more stringent provisions. [Read article here.]
*Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals hears argument in Sackett v. EPA. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard argument this week on a Clean Water Act case that has been ongoing for over 8 years and has already been to the US Supreme Court and back. The case is currently at the Ninth Circuit on issues of mootness when the EPA has stated it will not “take further action for now” against the Sacketts and the court raised the question of whether the Trump administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule renders moot the EPA’s determination that the Sackett’s property was jurisdictional. [Read article here.]
*Farmers Legal Action Group publishes CFAP2 Guide. The deadline for producers to sign up for the second round of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP 2) is December 11. If you are a producer and have not yet done so, the Farmers Legal Action Group published a great guide walking through the provisions of the CFAP 2 program. [Click here to view guide.] Be sure to contact your local FSA Office to get an appointment before December 11.
We have decided to reschedule the Texas Corn Producers Succession Planning programs in El Campo and Robstown from next week to February 10 and 11, 2021. Mark your calendars and we hope to see you there!
I’ve got a breather for the next couple of weeks. To see my full list of upcoming programs, click here.