Beef-Mart, Weed Control Wars, and Other Legal News
A BIG WELCOME BACK to College Football season (and almost Fall)!
We hope to keep you informed and entertained between games with the newest edition of our newsletter with legal news and noteworthy happenings for agriculture professionals (and the occasional contrarian viewpoint). We also aim to keep our readers guessing with a bit ‘o trivia (and the chance to win a prize)!
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Beef-Mart Aiming for a More Reliable Burger
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Walmart has acquired a minority equity stake in Sustainable Beef LLC, a rancher-developed beef processing facility that will be based in North Platte, Nebraska. Walmart’s investment in the project is a significant positive development for cattle producers and consumers in the highly consolidated beef-packing market where four processors are responsible for about 85% of beef processing. A number of factors have converged to bring about Sustainable Beef, including a lack of transparency in cattle pricing, frustration over consolidation among processors, low cattle prices in the face of high consumer demand and record profits for the major packers. Walmart observed that beef capacity is fairly tight and supplies were constrained during the Covid pandemic when plants shut down and reduced operations. Walmart’s investment in beef processing aims to secure reliable supplies for its grocery stores and increase visibility for customers into food supplies.
Is Half of a Plant Board Better Than No Plant Board?
In early August, the Arkansas State Plant Board convened for the first time since Pulaksi County Circuit Judge Chip Welch held that portions of the Plant Board statute allowing trade associations to suggest nominees to the Governor was unconstitutional. Thus, the Board that met in August with 10 members, 2 of whom are non-voting members representing the University of Arkansas. The other eight members are all political appointees, selected from the following categories:
- A practical cotton grower
- A practical rice grower
- A practical corn, peanut, sorghum, turf, or wheat grower
- A practical soybean grower
- Two farmers “actively and principally engaged” in the production of corn, cotton, peanuts, rice, sorghum, soybeans, turf, or wheat in Arkansas
- A practical livestock producer
- A practical forage grower
The Plant Board is responsible for “unbiased” enforcement of many Arkansas laws under its jurisdiction, including:
- Pest Control
- Pesticide control
- Seed certification
- Fruit and Vegetable labeling
- Products grading
- Organic fertilizer
- Soil amendments
- Animal feeds
- Strawberry quality
- Public Grain Warehouses
- Catfish processing
- Agricultural consultants
- Boll weevil eradication
- Grain moisture meters
- Weights and measures
- Petroleum quality
- Liming materials
Unfortunately, in the last few years a single issue has laid the Plant Board to waste – regulation of dicamba herbicide – through lawsuits filed by dicamba manufacturers and their customers like the one in Judge Welch’s court. The remaining categories give rise to quite a brain teaser – what is the difference between a “practical grower” and a farmer?
Glufosinate-Resistant Pigweed Confirmed in Missouri
Researchers at the University of Missouri have confirmed their first case of glufosinate-resistant Palmer amaranth this season in Missouri’s bootheel region. The discovery of herbicide-resistant weeds is becoming more and more common as years of reliance herbicide-only weed control programs has amplified powerful selection pressure on weeds. Palmer pigweed is a prolific seed producer and is particularly troublesome due to its ability to spread quickly and compete with crops. Controlling pigweed is the primary argument used by proponents for expanding use of dicamba herbicide, despite dicamba’s uncontrollable volatility. Missouri Extension weed scientist Kevin Bradley warns growers that relying solely on herbicides for weed control is a mistake – additional cultural measures such as cover crops and weed seed management should be part of an overall weed control program.
Public Comment Period Opens for EPA’s Updated Draft Ecological Risk Assessment for Dicamba
EPA is seeking public comments on its updated Ecological Risk Assessment for Dicamba, which it released on August 17, 2022. We reported on the new Risk Assessment last month, and noted the EPA’s acknowledgment of a sharp increase in dicamba damage reports since the release of dicamba-tolerant crops in 2016.
The comment period is open until October 17, 2022.
Almost 90 comments have been posted to the docket in the first few weeks since it opened.
EPA is seeking comments from a wide range of stakeholders, including environmental, human health, farm worker, and agricultural advocates; the chemical industry; pesticide users; and members of the public interested in the sale, distribution, or use of pesticides. EPA’s notice makes it clear that “anyone may submit data or information in response” to its dicamba risk assessment.
To ensure that comments are considered by EPA, follow these requirements:
- Submit the data or information during the comment period.
- The data or information submitted must be presented in a legible and useable form. For example, an English translation must accompany any material that is not in English and a written transcript must accompany any information submitted as an audiographic or video-graphic record. Written material may be submitted in paper or electronic form.
- Submitters must clearly identify the source of any submitted data or information.
- Submitters may request the Agency to reconsider data or information that the Agency rejected in a previous review. However, submitters must explain why they believe the Agency should reconsider the data or information in the pesticide’s registration review.
Comments may be submitted by one of the following methods:
- Federal eRulemaking Portal: https://www.regulations.gov. Follow the online instructions for submitting comments. Do not submit electronically any information you consider to be Confidential Business Information (CBI) or other information whose disclosure is restricted by statute.
- Mail: OPP Docket, Environmental Protection Agency Docket Center (EPA/DC), (28221T), 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20460-0001.
- Hand Delivery: To make special arrangements for hand delivery or delivery of boxed information, please follow the instructions at https://www.epa.gov/dockets/.
Be sure to include the EPA’s docket ID number on your comment: EPA-HQ-OPP-2016-0223.