JUDICIAL:

R. ALEXANDER ACOSTA, Sec’y of Labor, Dep’t of Labor, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. BLAND FARMS PRODUCTION & PACKING, LLC, DELBERT BLAND, an individual, Defendants-Appellants., No. 17-15322, 2019 WL 1504344 (11th Cir. Apr. 5, 2019)
Bland Farms Production & Packing, LLC runs a packing shed that processes and packages Vidalia onions grown both by Bland Farms as well as other farmers in the area. Shortly after he began growing onions in the 1980s, Delbert Bland was questioned by the Department of Labor about whether he was paying his packing shed employees properly. In response, Bland wrote to the Department, requesting guidance on when he should be paying overtime wages to his packing shed employees. The Department replied that a farmer is not responsible under the agricultural exemption from overtime if the packing shed employees were processing onions grown by the farmer or onions that the farmer had purchased in the field as long as he had purchased the entire field of onions.
Bland Farms processed onions in its packing sheds during the 2012-2016 seasons that were grown on land owned and leased by other growers. These contract growers contracted before planting to sell the onions to Bland Farms that they grew. Specifically, the contract growers prepared the seedbeds, planted, transplanted, fertilized, sprayed herbicides and pesticides, irrigated, and harvested. Bland Farms’ expert agronomist provided free advice and counsel to the contract growers throughout the season, visiting their farms and advising on the timing of planting and harvesting, the choice of seed varieties, and the application of chemicals. The contract growers paid all of the expenses: the seed, fertilizer, herbicide, pesticide, and labor costs. Bland Farms provided some labor occasionally and often helped haul the onions out of the field; Bland Farms would advance cash to the growers when necessary and occasionally harvested the onions. Bland Farms charged the growers for any provided assistance and recouped any cash advances. Typically, Bland Farms only paid for those onions that were marketable, under the “pack-out rate.” Occasionally, Bland Farms paid a set rate for the onions, regardless of quality, the “across-the-scales” method. The risk of loss was on the growers through the growing period; they carried their own crop insurance; Bland Farms took no responsibility for the onions until purchased.
The Department of Labor filed this action challenging the overtime-exempt status of Bland Farms’ packing shed employees during the Vidalia onion packing season in May 2014. After a bench trial, the district court released an order finding Bland Farms’ packing shed employees did not qualify as exempt employees because Bland Farms was not so intimately involved in its contract growers’ operations as to make its employees secondary agriculture employees. The court awarded overtime wages for the 2012-2016 seasons. The court also awarded liquidated damages from and after the time the Department filed suit, because it held that although Bland Farms reasonably relied on the Department of Labor’s advice from the 1980s about when overtime was due, it could not rely on that advice after the Department filed suit.
Affirmed as to whether overtime was owed, vacated and remanded as to reasonably relied.
REGULATORY:
Proposed rule; reopening of comment period: Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), USDA;

This proposed rule seeks to amend the regulatory standards by which the U.S. Department of Agriculture evaluates State Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) agency requests to waive the time limit and to end the unlimited carryover of able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWD) percentage exemptions. The proposed rule would encourage broader application of the statutory ABAWD work requirement, consistent with the Administration’s focus on fostering self-sufficiency. The original comment period for this proposed rule ended on April 2, 2019. FNS seeks to reopen the comment period on April 8, 2019, for a period of 3 days ending April 10, 2019. Info HERE

Notice: Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), USDA;

In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, this notice invites the general public and other public agencies to comment on this proposed information collection for The Role of Job Search as a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Employment and Training (E&T) Component. This is a new information collection. This study informs the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) about the types of job search activities offered through SNAP E&T programs and their effectiveness in moving participants toward employment. Info HERE

Notice; request for comment: Forest Service, USDA; In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, the Forest Service is seeking comments from all interested individuals and organizations on the extension with revisions to the information collection: Recreation Fee and Wilderness Program Administration. Info HERE

Notice of Solicitation for Applications: Rural Business-Cooperative Service, USDA;
This Notice announces that the Rural Business-Cooperative Service (Agency) is accepting fiscal year (FY) 2019 applications for the Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG) program. Enactment of a continuing resolution or an appropriations act may affect the availability or level of funding for the program. The Agency will publish the program funding level on the Rural Development website.The purpose of this program is to provide financial assistance to improve the economic condition of rural areas through cooperative development. Eligible applicants include a non-profit corporation or an institution of higher education. Info HERE

Notice of solicitation of applications: Rural Business—Cooperative Service, USDA;
This Notice announces that the Rural Business-Cooperative Service (Agency) is accepting fiscal year (FY) 2019 applications for the Socially-Disadvantaged Groups Grant (SDGG) program. Enactment of a continuing resolution or an appropriations act may affect the availability or level of funding for this program. The Agency will publish the program funding level on the SDGG website located at http://www.rd.usda.gov/​programs-services/​socially-disadvantaged-groups-grant. Expenses incurred in developing applications are the responsibility of the applicant.The purpose of this program is to provide technical assistance to Socially-Disadvantaged Groups in rural areas. Eligible applicants include Cooperatives, Groups of Cooperatives, and Cooperative Development Centers. This program supports Rural Development’s (RD) mission of improving the quality of life for rural Americans and commitment to directing resources to those who most need them. Info HERE

Final rule: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); This regulation establishes a crop group tolerance for residues of flonicamid in or on the commodities in sunflower subgroup 20B. Interregional Research Project Number 4 (IR-4) requested these tolerances under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). Info HERE

Notice: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); This notice announces the availability of EPA’s draft human health and/or ecological risk assessments for the registration review of 2,4-DB, aliphatic solvents, chlorine gas, dimethyl disulfide (DMDS), iodine and iodophors, methomyl, methyl bromide, naphthalene, phenmedipham, thiodicarb, tralopyril, and triclosan. Info HERE

LEGISLATIVE:

H.R. 2081: To amend the Animal Health Protection Act to establish a grant program for research on chronic wasting disease, and for other purposes. Info HERE

H.R. 2099: To expand the workforce of veterinarians specialized in the care and conservation of wild animals and their ecosystems, and to develop educational programs focused on wildlife and zoological veterinary medicine. Info HERE