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law Archive

Food Law and Policy Weekly Review, February 9 -13

February 12, 2015
  • Salon.com ran a candid and insightful piece on the financial challenges of starting and operating a small farm. You should read the whole thing – you don’t get too many chances to hear a young farmer talk about how tough it actually is to run these small scale diverse farms everyone seems so excited about. The article provoked some of our thoughts on farm leasing, which we posted to the Food Law Firm Blog yesterday.
  • SrirachaWe were surprised to learn that Sriracha – the original Sriracha – never sought trademark protection for their brand. The owner of the company explains the logic behind this in the LA Times this week, which makes some kind of perverse sense actually: “He believes all the exposure will lead more consumers to taste the original spicy, sweet concoction — which was inspired by flavors from across Southeast Asia and named after a coastal city in Thailand.” Though he seems to be doing quite well, we respectfully disagree considering how relatively cheap it is to seek trademark protection.
  • Chicagomag.com profiles outgoing CEO of McDonald’s, Don Thompson. Thompson will step down as CEO on March 1 after a serious of poor quarterly earnings reports. He seems a decent fellow.
  • QSR.com discusses Chipotle’s recent challenges supplying its restaurants with humanely raised pork. On several occasions during the Carnitas Crisis, we’ve been put-out during our (frequent) visits to Chipotle, having to substitute our first choice of pork with the still delightful chicken or beef alternatives. We therefore remain interested in future stories on Chipotle’s experience with the complexities of hog contracting.
  • A Philadelphia CBS affiliate reports on an FDA study which claims to have found milk in several brands of dark chocolate. Milk is an allergen under the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act, and few of the dark chocolate manufacturers seem to be in compliance with the allergen declarations required by the law.
  • The Environmental Working Group reports on a study indicating that consumers are not “scared away” by a GMO label: “…there was no consistent statistically significant difference in the average level of concern for GMOs expressed by people shown different labels.  That is, the mere presence of the GMO label did not lead to a greater level of concern about GMOs.” Also quoted in the Environmental Working Group Article were two economists with the USDA who hold the opinion that “labels are generally a weak policy tool for changing consumer consumption behavior.” So is labeling an effective way to communicate with consumers or not? In last week’s Review, we linked to a study indicating that affluent consumers are more likely to heed warning labels.
  • Reason.com reports that the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee will no longer list cholesterol among its “nutrients of concern.”

Food Law Bits and Pieces, January 26 – 29, 2015

January 29, 2015

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  • The New Yorker has an excellent article highlighting gaps in food safety regulation and enforcement powers — gaps that continue to create cases for attorney (and adjunct professor in the University of Arkansas School of Law’s LLM Program in Agricultural and Food Law) Bill Marler who represents victims of foodborne illnesses.
  • Possibly addressing the gaps discussed in The New Yorker article, new legislation has been introduced in Congress to create a single federal food safety agency, as Food Safety News reports.
  • Food Safety News also reports on Wyoming’s Food Freedom Bill, which would exempt transactions directly between food producers and “informed end consumers” from state regulation and provides that such consumers assume the risk of injury from consuming the food.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics released a study on Physical Activity Calorie Equivalent (PACE) labeling on menu items to encourage parents to make smarter choices when choosing food for their children at restaurants, which prompted a quick blog post from us.
  • The Columbia Missourian has a great story on Cody Waters, an Iraq War veteran now making the transition into farming.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports on rising egg prices in California, attributing the rise to changes to the new welfare standards for egg laying hens that took effect this year.
  • Don Thompson, CEO of McDonald’s, well step down from his post effective March 1. Recall that last November, Fortune Magazine ran a fantastic piece on the company’s recent decline and described a couple of Thompson’s key initiatives intended to get McDonald’s back on its feet. Those initiatives included the ability to use an in-store kiosk to build your own burger, or hiring Mythbusters guy Grant Imahara to tour a meat processing facility with a camera crew. We noted at the time that it seemed as though some of the better criticisms in the Fortune piece came from “former employees” of the company, who said things like  “The problem is the truth. They are a mass feeder” and “McDonald’s has forgotten over the past decade that the consumer makes emotional decisions.”
  • A federal bill introduced to create a single federal food safety agency, sponsored by Senator Richard Durbin and Congresswoman Rose DeLauro. The bill is called the Safe Food Act of 2015.
  • Jdsupra.com reports on the difficulties plaintiffs are having in pursuit of their “all natural” claims litigation. Read the whole thing, but if the details are a bit too geeky for you, the short of it is, “all natural” claims cases are not easy money for plaintiff’s law firms.

Food Law Bits and Pieces, January 20 – 23

January 22, 2015

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  • The Hill has its list of five food policy topics that should be addressed in the State of the Union speech.
  • The National Law Review reports on a recent ruling by a federal judge in Washington holding that manure, when not used as a soil amendment,  may be considered “solid waste” under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
  • The New York Times exposes horrific treatment of animals at a USDA-funded research facility in Nebraska, where scientists are studying techniques to improve livestock yields. If you eat meat you are probably morally obligated to read this, but it’s a bummer.
  • According to a survey conducted by Oklahoma State University, consumers want labeling of foods containing “DNA” in roughly the same percentage as those who want labeling of GMOs. Just as with the old “dihydrogen monoxide” gag, the study reveals more about the scientific ignorance of the sample set than it does about the need or rationale for mandatory GMO labeling.
  • Geek-out on a favorite food law topics of ours: geographic indicators. A Georgia grower of vidalia onions took the state to court to prevent the commissioner of agriculture from enforcing a “no earlier than” packing date meant to keep immature vidalias off of store shelves.
  • After California’s new size regulations on poultry battery cages came into effect in January 2015, it looks like the cost of eggs is going up within the state.
  • More people want to ban raw milk than marijuana according to TIME.
  • Via NPR, the more broken down your chicken is, the more likely it will be contaminated with salmonella. Whole birds are relatively the “cleanest”. Parts and quarters are less so. We are not likely to buy ground chicken anytime soon.

Food Law on the Road

January 6, 2015

Wrath GrapesLauren, obviously vying for the Northeast Organic Farming MVP award for 2015, will be speaking at NOFA Mass on January 10, NOFA New Jersey January 24, and NOFA New Hampshire on January 31.

Jason is headed to the American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention in San Diego, California from January 11 – 13 to participate in a panel discussion as General Counsel to the Farmer Veteran Coalition.

Road Trip Roundup: Farmer Veteran Coalition Events

November 21, 2014

Normal
I was in Normal, Illinois on November 13, 2014, speaking at the Local and Regional Food Summit. The event was sponsored by the Illinois Farm Bureau, the Illinois Department of Agriculture, and Heartland Community College.

I was there to announce the launch of a partnership between the Illinois Department of Agriculture and the Homegrown by Heroes marketing campaign. Homegrown by Heroes is a trademark that can be affixed to agricultural products grown by farmers who are veterans of the United States Armed Forces. The program is managed by the Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) of Davis, California.

Illinois became the very first state in the country to partner with FVC to help promote the mark through its state department of agriculture. Effective immediately, farmer veterans growing within the state of Illinois will qualify to use the Homegrown by Heroes logo in conjunction with the Illinois Product logo. This dual certification will give Illinois retail consumers two compelling reasons to purchase a farm product bearing the mark – it’s local and its veteran-grown.

Special thanks to Cynthia Haskins of Illinois Farm Bureau for the amazing effort to get FVC and Illinois Department of Agriculture together for this marketing program.

This firm created the legal framework for the Homegrown by Heroes program and the licensing required to manage it. I gave the presentation on behalf of the Farmer Veteran Coalition’s Michael O’Gorman, who could not attend due to his presence at FVC’s National Stakeholders Conference in Des Moines, Iowa.

Chaptering

Said Stakeholders Conference was my next destination after Illinois. With the help of Drake University Law School, who hosted the event, FVC brought together various groups from across the country working within the farmer-veteran movement. I was there in part to present the preliminary plans to create statewide chapters of the Farmer Veteran Coalition throughout the United States and its territories.

As a veteran, I get a particular satisfaction out of my involvement with FVC. I get to meet amazing people like Calvin Riggleman of Big Riggs Farm, Mickey Clayton of Dot Ranch, Chris Holman of Nami Moon Farms, and so many more. When I hear how hard these vets work, how much they love what they do, and the extent to which they experience farming as rehabilitative, I cannot help but be inspired by them.

Finally, I passed through Chicago-O’Hare Airport 3 times in 4 days, and each time I absorbed some free Vitamin D by the lights of the indoor edible garden by Gate G.