Food & Ag Weekly Round-Up: July 21, 2016

Business Day reported on U.S. antitrust approval of AB Inbev and SABMiller merger.

AgAlert discussed California drought relief in 2017 appropriations bill.

The Epoch Times reported on a giant hot dog recall.

Global Meat News reported on a Russian ban of GMO imports.

The Conversation News discussed a recent international report on the United Nations sustainable development goals.


FDA Amends Food Facility Registration Requirements

On July 14th, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) published a final rule amending the food facility registration requirement originally implemented under the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002.  The final rule includes a number of changes that are designed to improve the accuracy of the food facility registration database.  It also amends the retail food establishments definition, expanding the number of establishments that are considered retail food establishments and, therefore, exempt from the registration requirement pursuant to 21 C.F.R. § 1.226.

Under Section 415 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, food facilities that manufacture, process, pack, or hold food for consumption in the United States are required to register with FDA. More specifically, a domestic registrant is now required to provide an e-mail address for the contact person at its facility and  a foreign facility registrant must provide the e-mail address for the U.S. agent for its facility.  Registration renewals must be completed every two years, and facilities must provide assurance that FDA will be permitted to inspect the facility at the times and in the manner permitted by the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

Additionally, the final rule adds a few new requirements intended to improve the food facility registration database:

  • as of July 14, 2016, registrations are required to contain the type of activity conducted at the facility for each food product category;
  • all food facility registrations are required to be submitted to the FDA electronically by January 4, 2020; and
  • food facilities will need to provide a unique facility identifier (“UFI”) as part of the registration process beginning October 1, 2020.

The amended regulations also permit registrants to submit a written waiver request explaining why it is not reasonable to submit the registration, registration renewal, updates, or cancellation to FDA electronically or to explain why it is not reasonable to provide the required e-mail address contact information. An abbreviated registration renewal process is now available for registrants who do not have any changes to the required information since submission of their proceeding registration or renewal. Continue Reading

Food & Ag Weekly Round-Up: June 30, 2016

USAgNet discussed an environmental project at the oldest U.S. brewery.

The Conversation reported on the ideas discussed at the Stockholm food forum.

Food & Drink Europe discussed the impact of Brexit on the British food industry.

Business Day Live discussed the impact of Brexit on the AB Inbev acquisition of SABMiller.

USAgNet reported on a bill that would require national GMO labeling.


Husch Blackwell Food & Ag Clients Dominate Ingram’s Top 100 Private Companies List

In June 2016, Ingram’s published a list of the Top 100 Privately Held Companies in the Kansas City region. Of the top 10 companies listed, seven are Husch Blackwell clients.  Of those top 10, the top four all fall within the Food & Agribusiness industry group — Dairy Farmers of America, Associated Wholesale Grocers, National Beef Packing Co., and Lansing Trade Group. Additionally, two more of our Food & Agribusiness clients, Bartlett and Co. and Triumph Foods, are numbers 16 and 18, respectively. Congratulations to our clients!

Food & Ag Weekly Round-Up: June 16, 2016

Climate Central discussed the outlook for the California drought.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported on an antibiotic resistant superbug.

Reuters discussed U.S. corn exports.

Ag Canada discussed a report on the impact of weather on a globalized economy.

Reuters reported on U.S. farm loans.


Appeal Board Denies Livestock Patents, First of Its Kind

On Monday, June 13, 2016, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board issued its first ever post-grant review decision under the America Invents Act.  The Board invalidated two patents challenged by Husch Blackwell client American Simmental Association, a national cattle breed association representing the interests of Simmental cattle breeders in the United States. The ASA successfully argued that two previously issued patents which sought to protect a method of determining the relative market value of feeder cattle based upon genetic merit and physical traits of the animals constituted non-patentable subject matter. The Board agreed and stated that the challenged patents’ methodology were “fundamental concepts” that were “long prevalent in our system of commerce” and that some of the patents’ claims would have been obvious to a person familiar with the relevant technology based on previous inventions.

More information on the first-of-its-kind ruling, Husch Blackwell’s involvement and a link to the Law360 article can be found on our website.

Differential Privacy – A New Approach to Collecting Precision Ag Data?

The tech industry (e.g., Apple, Google) has been grappling very publicly with the conflicting issues of collecting user data on the one hand and trying to protect the privacy of the source of that data on the other hand.  Think of a spectrum of less data/more privacy on one end moving toward more data/less privacy on the other end.  Apple tends to operate at the former end of that spectrum and Google at the latter end.  This “conflict” between data collection and source privacy is the same issue that is playing out in the precision agriculture industry.  Seed companies, agricultural consultants, and service providers all want, and need, a lot of ag data.  The farming community is, correctly, very concerned about privacy of that data which is, itself, often very proprietary.  That’s the same conundrum that the tech industry is facing.

Yesterday, at a public presentation of the new operating systems for Macintosh computers and iOS devices, Apple noted that it will be using a statistical tool known as “differential privacy” to collect user data (in order to enhance its services, improve search results, etc.) in a way that apparently has been computationally proven to protect user/customer privacy.  The use of a similar tool in the precision ag industry should provide comfort to farmers that their data and the identity of the source of the data is protected.  If such demonstrated techniques are used in a robust fashion, that will also substantially ease the contract issues between a farmer and a precision ag data user.

A description of the differential privacy approach was published last evening on Wired magazine’s web site.  The article includes a link to a more rigorous description of the system.  There may be some additional complexity in the ag industry because of the importance of fairly specific location of the data being analyzed, but it is certainly possible that a collection of important characteristics of a specific location (soil characteristics, some sort of classification of past performance in terms of yield, etc.) might be able to be identified that would provide the precision ag industry enough high quality data without having to know, or collect, identifiable information such as GPS coordinates.

For additional insights on legal issues related to technology and data privacy in precision agriculture, contact a member of Husch Blackwell’s Precision Agriculture team.

US Visit From Cuban Ag Minister Highlights Future Trade Opportunities Under Amended Sanctions

Cuban flag against skyCuba’s Minister of Agriculture, Gustavo Rodriguez Rollero, made an official visit to the United States last week together with a delegation of officials from other Cuban ministries. Minister Rollero’s visit was preceded by a February 2016 visit from Rodrigo Malmierca, Cuba’s Foreign Trade Minister. These visits marked the first US visits from senior Cuban government officials in over 50 years. President Obama, US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Missouri Governor Jay Nixon have also made their own historic visits to Cuba within recent months. Secretary Vilsack’s visit included a meeting in Havana to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (the “MOU”) between the US Department of Agriculture and the Cuban Ministry of Agriculture enabling the two agencies to cooperate in fields such as phytosanitary standards, plant and animal sanitation, organic production methods, climatology and irrigation through collaborative efforts such as information exchange and scientific research.

During his visit, Minister Rollero discussed the MOU and informed the US Chamber of Commerce that Cuba is currently importing $2 billion in agricultural commodities every year. Cuba’s Ministry of Agriculture expects Cuba’s food demands to increase as the Cuban tourism industry continues to expand. As a result, the Cuban Ministry of Agriculture has developed a long term plan to eliminate 50% of Cuba’s commodity imports by the year 2030. This plan consists of: (1) developing approximately 6.2 million hectares of ground for local crop and livestock production in order to produce food locally instead of importing it, (2) revising Cuba’s commodity importing practices in order to more strategically import crops such as wheat and rice which are difficult to grow in Cuba, and (3) increasing exports of specialty Cuban commodities such as tropical fruit, coffee, tobacco and honey (particularly in organic markets). Minister Rollero acknowledged that Cuba will need to acquire a significant amount of modern farming equipment to accomplish its 2030 plan and noted that most of the farming machinery currently available in Cuba is over 40 years old. He also noted that Cuban buyers and the Cuban government (which purchases farming equipment on behalf of government-owned farming cooperatives) will request extended payment terms when purchasing this equipment. Continue Reading

Food & Ag Weekly Round-Up: June 9, 2016

USA Today reported on trends in water and soda consumption.

Food Processing discussed the final FSMA rule from the FDA.

The Grocer discussed the launch of the first international food waste standard.

Food Safety News reported on innovations that reduce food waste.

SF Gate reported on a Kansas City food pantry helping those with food allergies.


Congress Passes Major Revisions to the Federal Toxic Substances Control Act

The federal Toxic Substances Control Act, originally enacted in 1976, will be substantially revised as a result of amendments passed by the House of Representatives last month and by the Senate this week.  Although pesticides remain excluded from the definition of chemical substances under the Act, many other chemical substances and mixtures manufactured and imported in the Food and Agriculture industry are subject to regulation.  Please see our summary of the changes.  For additional information please contact Bob Wilkinson or any member of our Environmental & Chemical Regulation team.