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Agricultural Law

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Agricultural Law

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What is Agricultural Law?

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Agricultural law is fairly straightforward in regard to what kind of issues it handles. Agricultural law is designed to both protect unlawful destruction of natural resources and also prevent the leaching of hazardous substances into the surrounding environment. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) creates and enforces regulations designed to protect the United States’ natural resources from negative human interference, and this includes the agriculture industry. For example, there are rules regarding pesticide use, erosion control, water quality, and more which could affect the way a farm, ranch, or other business in the agriculture industry can operate.

Failure to follow EPA standards for agriculture could result in an environmental lawsuit in addition to harm for the environment and the people who live in it. Areas of the agriculture industry that are affected by this set of laws include everything from the production of the product to the marketing and distribution. Due to the wide variety of products that fall into this industry, the laws governing it can be extremely complex. For help ensuring that your farm or company meets EPA standards, contact an agriculture law attorney to learn more about your options. Failure to follow EPA and USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) standards could result in severe penalties and even lawsuits depending on the resulting damage.

Common Issues in Agricultural Law

Like any field of law, there are a variety of issues that are more commonly seen than others. However, agricultural law is unique in that issues which are common one year might not be a problem the next, and vice versa. According to the National Agricultural Law Center, some common issues in the agricultural industry from 2019 include:

  • Industrial hemp: Hemp containing less than 0.3% of THC was removed from the Controlled Substances Act in 2018, resulting in a variety of debates over the new hemp regulations. A primary point of debate on this topic is the FDA’s stance on and regulation of cannabidiol (CBD) oil in products.
  • Right to farm: Farms have long been subject to nuisance lawsuits due primarily to the noise and smell of the animals and other products found on a farm. Despite legal protections in every state protecting the right to farm, nuisance lawsuits by neighboring landowners continue to be a problem.
  • The “conduit theory” in regard to the Clean Water Act (CWA): This was a specific issue though not the only of its kind regarding a situation in which the County of Maui, Hawaiʻi allegedly violated the CWA by discharging treated sewage water into groundwater that eventually reached the ocean without a permit.
  • Labeling new proteins: With the many meat-alternatives on the market, there has arisen a labeling issue in regard to the new protein products such as plant-based, insect-based, and cell-cultured. As a result, 13 states passed laws regarding how these new protein products are allowed to be labeled.
  • Pesticides: Pesticides have been an ongoing issue for the agricultural community, with the EPA deciding what kind of pesticides are or are not acceptable for use in specific situations. The pesticide companies are under particular scrutiny to properly label their products and include adequate warnings in order to protect injury and illness to users and damage to property.
  • Redefining waters of the United States (WOTUS): This was a significant decision by the EPA to redefine the WOTUS, which is still ongoing. The decision to redefine this term seems to have come about as a result of parties not knowing exactly what is included in the WOTUS, and accidentally violating the CWA as a result.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Makes the Rules

The USDA is responsible for making the majority of the rules for the agriculture industry to follow. The purpose of these rules is to ensure the relative safety of poultry, egg, and meat products, as well as to maintain prices for crops to protect against crop surpluses or shortages with the help of the Agricultural Adjustment Act. The Agricultural Adjustment Act began in 1933 and was designed to support the agriculture market by purchasing livestock and offering subsidies to farmers to avoid planting on certain areas of their land in order to prevent harmful surpluses. Laws may vary slightly from state to state regarding agriculture, but generally follow the same regulations and are all subject to federal oversight.

If you have suffered due to a violation of agricultural law, or for help ensuring that your farm or business meets EPA and USDA standards, seek legal counsel. Agricultural law attorneys are experts in their fields and can help navigate the complex and ever-changing legislation regarding the production, marketing, and distribution of foods and textiles in the United States.

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