A comprehensive summary of today’s judicial, legislative, and regulatory developments in agriculture and food. Email important additions to: camarigg at uark.edu

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JUDICIAL: Includes unfair competition, estate planning, and damages issues. 

In Hunter v. Nature’s Way Products, LLC, No. 16CV532-WQH-BLM, 2016 WL 4262188 (S.D. Cal. Aug. 12, 2016), plaintiffs allege defendants sold coconut oil products with labels and packaging conveying “the concrete message to a reasonable consumer that the product is healthy, and a more healthful alternative to butter, margarine, shortening, or other cooking oils.” Plaintiff alleged violations under California’s Unfair Competition Law (UCL). Court noted that, “To violate the UCL, a business practice must meet one of three criteria: unlawful, unfair, or fraudulent.” Plaintiffs alleged defendants conduct was “unfair” because it was “immoral, unethical, unscrupulous, or substantially injurious to consumers,” and because it violated public policy. Court concluded plaintiffs’ allegations regarding defendants’ business practices were not pleaded with “sufficient specificity to state a claim under the unfair prong of the UCL.” Defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiffs’ claims partially granted under “unfair prong” of the UCL.

Jones v. Dalrymple, No. 14-1245-SAC, 2016 WL 4263101 (D. Kan. Aug. 12, 2016), involved siblings, trustees of three separate family trusts, that formed an LLC in 2002 to manage their land. Plaintiff, a family member, sued to have federal court interpret the LLC’s operating agreement. Defendants moved to dismiss on grounds of res judicata and collateral estoppel. They presented court orders directing the dissolution of the LLC and sale of all LLC assets. Court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss declaring, “The court remains convinced that the state court orders, despite their conflicting terms, constitute final judgments on the termination of the trusts, on the dissolution of the LLC, on the management of the LCC during dissolution, and on the handling of the mineral rights after the sale of the real estate.”

Volentine v. Raeford Farms of Louisiana, LLC, 50,698 (La. App. 2 Cir. 8/15/16) involved a contract between a chicken farmer and a large chicken manufacturing company. Trial court found defendant terminated plaintiffs’ breeder contract in bad faith, violating the contract and the Louisiana Unfair Trade Practices Act (LUTPA). The court awarded damages for plaintiffs’ loss of income, loss of the family farm and mental anguish. Defendant appealed trial court’s ruling on, among other issues, damages for “mental anguish” related to the sale of the family farm. The court noted that “the farm had been in the Volentine family for over a generation,” and “the land held great emotional value to the family.”  Furthermore, plaintiff testified about the “grief he experienced in having to tell his father he had lost the land and his lifelong plans of keeping the land in his family,” and that the loss of the land and farm caused “great emotional upheaval.” Court affirmed mental anguish damages award under LUTPA.


REGULATORY: Includes AMS, FS and NOAA rules and notices.

AGRICULTURAL MARKETING SERVICE:

Rule implementing a recommendation from the Almond Board of California to change the quality control requirements currently prescribed under the California almond marketing order. Info here.

Rule implementing a recommendation from the Texas Valley Citrus Committee to increase assessment rate established for the 2016-17 and subsequent fiscal periods from $0.08 to $0.09 per 7/10-bushel carton or equivalent of oranges and grapefruit handled under the marketing order. Info here.

FOREST SERVICE: Notice the Francis Marion National Forest, located in South Carolina, has prepared an environmental impact statement, a revised land management plan and a draft record of decision. Details here.

NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION: Rule approving regulations to implement Northeast Skate Complex Fishery Management Plan Framework Adjustment 3 management measures, including fishing year 2016-2017 specifications, and implements a new seasonal quota allocation for the skate wing fishery. Info here.