Category Archives: Business and Financial

USDA Seeks Public Comment on Postponed GIPSA Rules

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:

  1. Let the delayed rules become effective
  2. Suspend the delayed rules indefinitely
  3. Delay the effective date of the delayed rules further, or
  4. 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.

More information on the delayed GISPA rules is here. Leave a public comment on the delayed rules here by clicking “Comment Now.”

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Farmers Have One Month to Decide Whether to Stay in Syngenta Litigation

Farmers are receiving a lot of attention from law firms these days, from video mailers to offers of free consultations, dinners, hats and more.  The purpose of these marketing efforts is to entice farmers away from participating in the current class action lawsuit against Syngenta.  Law firms want farmers to exclude themselves from the class action litigation and participate in individual lawsuits their firms would bring against Syngenta.  With a deadline of April 1 looming, farmers must decide whether to remain in or step away from the class action lawsuit.

The class action lawsuit, known as “In re Syngenta AG MIR162 Corn Litigation,” is pending before the U.S. District Court in Kansas.  It is one of two major lawsuits regarding corn rejected by China in 2013 because China had not yet approved Syngenta’s Duracade and Viptera brands of genetically-modified corn.  The lawsuit consolidated hundreds of similar federal court cases that all claimed that Syngenta should be liable for the drop in corn prices that followed China’s rejections because Syngenta stated that it had obtained all necessary regulatory approvals for Duracade and Viptera, but instead released the seed before receiving China’s approval.

Class Certification

Last September, the court certified the litigation as a class action lawsuit, which allows the case to commence on behalf of all class members.  Any farmer that fits within the class definitions is automatically included in the lawsuit and does not have to pursue individual litigation against Syngenta.  The court established a nationwide class of “producers,” defined as any person or entity listed as a producer on an FSA-578 form filed with the USDA who priced corn for sale after November 18, 2013 and who did not purchase Viptera or Duracade corn seed (farmers who used Syngenta’s seed have different legal claims).  The nationwide class is for producers bringing claims under federal law.  The court also certified eight state classes for producers bringing claims under state laws, including Ohio.  Syngenta appealed the class certification, but the Tenth District Court of Appeals denied the appeal.

Ohio farmers who fit the definition of “producers” are now automatically members of both the nationwide and Ohio classes.  This means that every Ohio producer can receive a share of any award or settlement that results from the litigation, with required documentation.  However, Ohio producers may choose to exclude themselves from or “opt out” of their classes and bring their own individual actions against Syngenta.  The district court required attorneys for the class action suit to notify all potential producers of the lawsuit and of a producer’s right to be excluded from the litigation.   A producer must send an exclusion request by April 1, 2017, following the process for exclusion stated in the court’s order, available here.

Pros and Cons of Staying in the Class

A major benefit of remaining in the class action lawsuit is convenience.  Class members in the lawsuit have no responsibility for the proceedings, which falls upon the attorneys who represent the entire class.  However, convenience comes at the cost of deferring decision making authority and losing a share of the award or settlement to court-ordered attorney fees, although class members may file objections to such decisions.  Exclusion from the class gives producers freedom to pursue their own actions, which will likely lead to a stronger role in decision making and the ability to negotiate attorney fees.  Exclusion also allows a farmer who may not agree with the litigation on principal to dissociate from the lawsuit.

What’s Next?

The court has scheduled “bellwether” cases in the lawsuit, which will go to trial in June.  Bellwether cases are chosen to be representative of the class.  Allowing these cases to go to trial gives an indication of how the litigation will play out—the strength of each side, how juries react and how the law applies to the situation.   Upon completion of the bellwether cases, both sides should be better able to decide whether to settle the lawsuit or continue with litigation.

The U.S. District Court’s website for the Syngenta class action lawsuit is http://www.ksd.uscourts.gov/syngenta-ag-mir162-corn-litigation/

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Filed under Biotechnology, Business and Financial, Crop Issues, Uncategorized

New Law Increases Access to Ohio Small Claims Court

The Ohio General Assembly has enacted a law that raises the monetary limit for cases handled through Ohio’s small claims court system.  To read this post, visit our new blog site at http://aglaw.osu.edu/blog.

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Ohio Creates New “Farm Winery” Liquor Permit

Governor Kasich has signed legislation to create a new “Ohio Farm Winery Liquor Permit.” To read this post, visit our new blog site at http://aglaw.osu.edu.

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Filed under Business and Financial, Tax, Uncategorized

OSU Extension to Offer Farmland Leasing Workshops in February

Ohio State University Extension will offer four Farmland Leasing Workshops throughout Ohio next month.  The three hour workshops will include topics of interest to both landowners and farm operators, such as factors affecting leasing options and rental rates, analyzing rent survey data and legal requirements and provisions for farm leases.  To read this post, visit our new website at aglaw.osu.edu/blog.

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Webinar will Help Attorneys Guide Clients through the New Farm Bill

Attorney Bill Bridgforth will present OSU’s next webinar on “The 2014 Farm Bill:  Guiding a Client through the New Law” on Friday, January 9 at 1 pm EST.  Bridgforth is a senior partner in the Arkansas law firm of Ramsay, Bridgforth, Robinson & Raley, LLP who represents agricultural producers around the United States.  He will explain the election decisions producers and landowners must make under the new Farm Bill and will provide examples of decision making impacts.

There is no registration or fee required for the webinar, which is accessible at https://carmenconnect.osu.edu.  A recording of the webinar and a listing of additional webinars is available at aglaw.osu.edu.

The Ohio Food, Agriculture & Environmental Law Webinar Series is an outreach project of OSU Extension’s Agricultural & Resource Law Program.

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OSU to Offer Ag and Natural Resource Tax Issues Workshop

Tax preparers and farmers who file their own farm tax returns have an opportunity to participate in OSU Extension’s Agriculture and Natural Resource Tax Issues Workshop on December 19, 2013.  The day long webinar-based workshop features Professor Phil Harris of the University of Wisconsin, a leading expert in farm and natural resource tax law.  Harris will address issues specific to farm tax returns and will be available for a live question and answer session during the workshop.  Attendees can view the webinar from home or office or at one of nine facilitated host locations around the state, and can receive continuing education credit for the workshop.  Visit this site for more information.

OSU Extension’s Larry Gearhardt, field specialist in taxation, organizes the workshop in concert with the OSU Income Tax Schools, a multi-day continuing education program for those who prepare federal tax returns.   More information and the tax school schedule for this fall are available at http://go.osu.edu/taxschools.

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