Ohio’s Proposed Hemp Rules Are Out

By Peggy Kirk Hall and Ellen Essman

OSU Agricultural & Resource Law Program

Ohio’s newly created hemp program is one step further toward getting off the ground.   On October 9, the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) released its anxiously awaited proposal of the rules that will regulate hemp production in Ohio.   ODA seeks public comments on the proposed regulations until October 30, 2019.

There are two parts to the rules package:  one rule for hemp cultivation and another for hemp processing.   Here’s an overview of the components of each rule:

  1. Hemp cultivation

The first rule addresses the “cultivation” of hemp, which means “to plant, water, grow, fertilize, till or havest a plant or crop.”  Cultivating also includes “possessing or storing a plant or cop on a premises whre the plant was cultivated until transported to the first point of sale.”  The proposal lays out the rfollowing egulatory process for those who wish to cultivate hemp in Ohio.

Cultivation licenses.  Anyone who wants to grow hemp must receive a hemp cultivation license from the ODA.  Licenses are valid for three years.  To obtain a license, the would-be hemp cultivator must submit an application during the application window, which will be between November 1 and March 31.  The application requires the applicant to provide personal information about the applicant, and if the applicant is a business, information about who is authorized to sign on behalf of the business, who will be primarily responsible for hemp operations and the identity of those having a financial interest greater than ten percent in the entity.    The cultivation license application will also seek information about each location where hemp will be grown, including the GPS coordinates, physical address, number of outdoor acres or indoor square footage, and maps of each field, greenhouse, building or storage facility where hemp will grow or be stored.  Cultivators must pay a license application fee of $100, and once licensed, an additional license fee of $500 for each growing location, which is defined as a contiguous land area or single building in which hemp is grown or planned to be grown.  All applicants and anyone with a controlling interest ithe hemp cultivation business must also submit to a criminal records check by the bureau of criminal identification and investigation.

Land use restrictions.  The proposed rules state that a licensed hemp cultivator shall not:

  • Plant or grow cannabis that is not hemp.
  • Plant or grow hemp on any site not approved by the ODA.
  • Plant, grow, handle or store hemp in or within 100 feet of a residential structure or 500 feet of a school or public park, unless for approved research.
  • Comingle hemp with other crops without prior approval from ODA.
  • Plant or grow hemp outdoors on less than one-quarter acre, indoors on less than 1,000 square feet, or in a quantity of less than 1,000 plants without prior approval from ODA.
  • Plant or grow hemp within half a mile of a parcel licensed for medical marijuana cultivation.
  • Plant or grow hemp on property that the license holder does not own or lease.

Hemp harvesting.  Licensed growers would be required to submit a report to ODA at least 15 days before their intended harvest date and pay a pre-harvest sample fee of $150.  ODA then has to sample the hemp for THC content, and only if approved can a cultivator harvest the crop, which in most cases must occur within 15 days after the sample is taken.  Failing to harvest within the 15-day window might require a secondary sampling and sampling fee.  A cultivator would be required to have a hemp release form from ODA before moving any harvested materials beyond the storage facility.

Random sampling.  The proposed rules also allow for random sampling of hemp by ODA and provide details on how ODA will conduct the sampling and charge sampling fees.  Any cultivator is subject to random sampling in each location where hemp has been cultivated. ODA will report testing results that exceed 0.3 THC to the cultivator, who may request a second sample.  A cultivator must follow procedures for destroying any leaf, seed, or floral material from plants that exceed 0.3 THC and any material that was co-mingled with the 0.3 THC materials, but may harvest bare hemp stalks for fiber.

Destruction of hemp.   Under the proposed regulations, a license holder must submit a destruction report before destroying hemp and ODA must be present to witness the destruction.  The proposed rules also authorize ODA to destroy a crop that was ordered destroyed, abandoned, or otherwise not harvested and assess the costs against the licensee.

Reporting and recordkeeping are also important in the proposed rules.  Licensed cultivators must submit a planting report on an ODA form for each growing location by July 1 or within 15 days of planting or replanting, which shall include the crop’s location, number of acres or square footage, variety name, and primary intended use.  The rule would also require licensees to submit a completed production report by December 31 of each year.    A licensee that fails to submit the required reports would be subject to penalties and fines. Cultivators must maintain planting, harvest, destruction and production reports for three years.

Control of volunteer plants.  A licensee must scout and monitor unused fields for volunteer hemp plants and destroy the plants for a period of three years past the last date of reported planting.  Failing to do so can result in enforcement action or destruction of the plants by ODA with costs assessed to the licensee.

Pesticide and fertilizer use.  The laws and rules that apply to other crops will also apply to hemp, except that when using a pesticide on a site where hemp will be planted, the cultivator must comply with the longest of any planting restriction interval on the product label.   ODA may perform pesticide testing randomly, and any hemp seeds, plants and materials that exceed federal pesticide residue tolerances will be subject to forfeiture or destruction without compensation.

Prohibited varieties.  The proposed rule states that licensed cultivators cannot use any part of a hemp plant that ODA has listed as a prohibited variety of hemp on its website.

Clone and seed production.  Special rules apply to hemp cultivators who plan to produce clones, cuttings, propagules, and seed for propagation purposes.  The cultivator can only sell the seeds or plants to other licensed cultivators and must maintain records on the variety, strain and certificate of analysis for the “mother plants.”  The licensee need not submit a harvest report, but must keep sales records for three years of the purchaser, date of sale, and variety and number of plants or seeds purchased.

Cultivation research.  Universities may research hemp cultivation without a license but private and non-profit entities that want to conduct research must have a cultivation license.  Cultivation research licensees would be exempt from many parts of the proposed rules, but must not sell or transfer any part of the plants and must destroy the plants when the research ends.

Enforcement.  The proposed rule grants authority to the ODA to deny, suspend or revoke cultivation licenses for those who’ve provide false or misleading information, haven’t completed a background check, plead guilty to a felony relating to controlled substances within the past 10 years, or violated the hemp laws and rules three or more times in a five-year period.

  1. Hemp processing

The proposed rules package by ODA also addresses processing, which the rule defines as “converting hemp into a hemp product” but does not include on-farm drying or dehydrating of raw hemp materials by a licensed hemp cultivator for sale directly to a licensed hemp processor.    Because of this definition, many farmers who want only to grow and dry hemp would need only a cultivation license.  Growers who want to process their licensed hemp into CBD oil or other products, however, must also obtain a processing license.  The processing rules follow a similar pattern to their cultivation counterpart, as follows.

Processing licensesIn addition to submitting the same personal, business and location information as a cultivation license requires, a hemp processing license application must list the types of hemp products that the processor plans to produce.   An “extraction operational plan” including safety measures and guidelines is required for processors who want to extract CBD from hemp to produce their product, and an applicant must indicate compliance with all building, fire, safety and zoning requirements.  The amount of the license fee depends on what part of the hemp plant the processor plans to process.  Processing raw hemp fiber, for example, requires a $500 license fee for each processing site, whereas processing the raw floral component of hemp requires a $3000 fee for each site.  Like the cultivation license, a processing license is valid for three years.  Applicants and those with a controlling interest in the business must submit to a background check.

Land use restrictions.  The proposed regulations would prevent a licensed processor from:

  • Processing or storing any cannabis that is not hemp.
  • Processing or storing hemp or hemp products on any site not approved by ODA.
  • Processing, handling, or storing hemp or hemp products in or adjacent to a personal residence or in any structure used for residential use or on land zoned for residential use.
  • Processing hemp within 500 feet of a school or public park, except for approved research.

Financial responsibility.    A licensed processor must meet standards of financial responsibility, which require having current assets at least $10,000 or five percent of the total purchase of raw hemp materials in the previous calendar year, whichever is greater, and possessing a surety bond.

Inspection and sampling.  As with cultivation licensees, hemp processing licensees would be subject to inspection and sampling by ODA under the proposed rule.

Food safety regulations.  The proposed rule requires hemp processes to comply with federal and state food safety regulations.

Sources and extraction of cannabinoids (CBD). A processor who wants to extract or sell CBD products must obtain the materials from a licensed or approved cultivator or processor in Ohio or another state with hemp cultivation licenses.  The regulation outlines components of the extraction operational plan that a processor must submit with the processing application, as well as acceptable extraction methods and required training.

Product testing.  A hemp processor must test hemp products at an accredited testing laboratory before selling the products.   The proposed rule describes the testing procedures, which address microbial contaminants, cannabinoid potency, mycotoxins, heavy metals, pesticide and fertilizer residue and residual solvents.  There are testing exemptions, however, for hemp used exclusively for fiber, derived exclusively from hemp seed and hemp extracts.  The testing laboratory must create a certificate of analysis for each batch or lot of the tested hemp product.

Processor waste disposal.  Under the proposed rule, a licensed processor must follow procedures for proper disposal of hemp byproducts and waste and must maintain disposal records.

Product labeling requirements are also proposed in the rule.  A processor must label all hemp products except for those made exclusively from hemp fiber as outlined in the rule and in compliance with federal law and other existing Ohio regulations for standards of identify and food coloring.

Recordkeeping.  As we’d expect, the proposal states that hemp processors must maintain records for five years that relate to the purchase of raw, unprocessed plant materials, the purchase or use of extracted cannabinoids, and the extraction process.

Prohibited products.  Finally, the proposed rules include a list of hemp products that cannot be offered for sale, which includes hemp products with over 0.3 percent THC by dry weight basis, hemp products which laboratory testing determines do not meet standards of identity or that exceed the amount of mytoxins, heavy metals, or pesticides allowed, and any hemp products produced illegally.

What’s next for the hemp rules?

Keep in mind that these rules are not yet set in stone; they are a simply a proposal for hemp licensing rules in Ohio.  Those interested in cultivating or processing hemp in the future should read the draft rules carefully.  The proposed rule for hemp cultivation is here and the proposal for hemp processing is here.  Anyone can submit comments on the proposed rules here.  Your comments could affect what the final hemp rules require for hemp cultivators and processors.  After ODA reviews all comments, it will issue its final hemp licensing regulations.

Federal law requires that after Ohio finalizes its rules, ODA must submit them to the USDA for approval.  That approval won’t occur, however, until USDA completes its own hemp regulations, which are due out in proposal form any day now.  Ohio’s rules will become effective once USDA approves them, hopefully in time for the 2020 planting season.  Stay tuned to the Ag Law Blog to see what happens next with hemp production in Ohio.

 

Fun in the Fall: Minimizing Liability at Your Agritourism Operation

By: Evin Bachelor, Wednesday, September 04th, 2019
Source: https://farmoffice.osu.edu/blog/wed-09042019-206pm/ohio-ag-law-blog-fun-fall-minimizing-liability-your-agritourism-operation
Whether we’re ready or not, Labor Day traditionally marks a transition from summer to fall.  Pumpkin flavored everything will soon be available at a coffee shop and restaurant near you, and Ohio’s agritourism farms will surely be busy.

Whether you are just getting your agritourism farm up and running, or a seasoned agritourism veteran, it never hurts to take a moment to think about your liability risks.  The OSU Extension Agricultural & Resource Law Program has developed a number of resources, available on our publications webpage, that can help you think about ways to minimize the legal risks to you and your farm.  These resources include:

  • Ohio’s Agritourism Law – Ohio law grants liability protection for personal injuries suffered while participating in an agritourism activity.  It also provides for special taxation and zoning of lands where agritourism activities occur.  This law bulletin explains what your farm needs to do to be covered by the immunity, and how much protection it provides.  Click HERE to read the law bulletin.
  • Farm Animals and People: Liability Issues for Agritourism – Farm animals can be a valuable attraction for an agritourism operation, but having people and animals interact on the farm creates liability risks.  This factsheet explains a range of animal liability risks and provides a checklist to think about what you can do to reduce the risk of injury to your visitors, as well as reduce the risk of a lawsuit.  Click HERE to read the factsheet.
  • Agritourism and Insurance – Even with immunity laws in place, a farmer must carefully consider the farm’s insurance needs and ensure that it has adequate coverage.  This factsheet explains agritourism insurance, why it may be needed, and more.  It also provides a checklist that may help an agritourism farmer make sure that certain important insurance questions are addressed before an accident occurs.  Click HERE to read the factsheet.
  • Agritourism Immunity Laws in the United States – Many states, including Ohio, have taken steps to encourage agritourism by providing agritourism farms with some degree of immunity to liability.  We explain Ohio’s law more in depth in our law bulletin titled “Ohio’s Agritourism Law,” but this factsheet compares approaches taken in other states and provides a checklist that helps an agritourism farm think about how much protection it has under these laws.  Click HERE to read the factsheet.
  • Agritourism Activities and Zoning – Zoning is a force to be reckoned with in many states, but many states, including Ohio, have taken steps to encourage agritourism through zoning regulations.  This factsheet explains how zoning and agritourism interact across the country, including an explanation of Ohio’s current approach.  Click HERE to read the factsheet.
  • Youth Labor on the Farm: Laws Farmers Need to Know – Many Ohio agritourism farms provide employment to youth, who are able to learn about agriculture, business, and customer service through working at the farm.  Those hiring youth under the age of 18 want to make sure that they are following federal and Ohio labor laws.  Our latest law bulletin explains the youth labor laws that are unique to agriculture.  Click HERE to read the factsheet.

Food sales present some special issues that you will want to think about if you wish to sell food at your farm.  Depending upon the foods you sell, you may have to obtain a retail food establishment license for food safety purposes.  The following resources can help you think through the steps you must take to sell food at your agritourism farm:

  • Food Sales at Agritourism Operations: Legal Issues – Whether you sell fresh produce, cottage foods or baked goods, or prepare and serve food on-site, there are legal risks and requirements that may come into play.  This factsheet explains some of the legal issues you should consider before selling food at your farm, and provides a checklist of things to consider before you begin selling food.  Click HERE to read the factsheet.
  • Selling Foods at the Farm: When Do You Need a License? – This Ohio-specific factsheet explores farmers, including those operating an agritourism farm, need to register or obtain a license in order to sell food at the farm.  Click HERE to read the law bulletin.

Beyond our website, many of our peers at OSU Extension have developed a number of helpful resources for agritourism farms.  OSU Extension’s Agritourism Ready webpage, which you can access at u.osu.edu/agritourismready/, is designed to be a one stop shop for preparing an emergency management plan.  You can also read factsheets on Ohioline related to agritourism ranging from “Creating Signage for Direct Food and Agricultural Sales” to “Grants and Low-Interest Loans for Ohio Small Farms,” and “Maps, Apps and Mobile Media Marketing” to “Selling Eggs in Ohio: Marketing and Regulations.”

As new legal issues arise, we will continue to create resources that help farmers understand and mitigate their risk.  In the meantime, we wish everyone a fun and safe fall at Ohio’s agritourism farms.

“Ask the Expert” Area Seeks to Help Farmers at this year’s Farm Science Review

Each year, faculty and staff of The Ohio State University address some of the top farm management and veterinarian medicine challenges which Ohio farmers are facing during the “Ask the Expert” sessions held each day at the Farm Science Review at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center near London, Ohio.

The 20 minute “Ask the Expert” presentations at Farm Science Review are one segment of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) and the College of Veterinary Medicine comprehensive extension education efforts during the three days of the Farm Science Review which will be held September 17-19 in London, Ohio.

Our experts will share science-based recommendations and solutions to the issues growers are facing regarding weather impacts, tariffs, veterinarian medicine, and low commodity prices. Producers are encouraged to attend one or more of the sessions throughout the day.

The sessions will take place in the Ohio State Area in the center of the main Farm Science Review exhibit area located at 426 Friday Avenue. This year’s featured sessions are:

Tuesday, September 17, 2019
“Tax Strategies Under the New Tax Law” presented by Barry Ward
10:00 – 10:20 a.m.

“Climate Smart- Weather, Climate & Extremes-Oh My!” presented by Aaron Wilson
10:20 – 10:40 a.m.

“Before the Pearly Gates- Getting Your Farm Affairs in Order” presented by David Marrison
10:40 – 11:00 a.m.

“Crop Inputs & Cash Rent Outlook for 2020” presented by Barry Ward
11:00 – 11:20 a.m.

“Farm Stress-We Got Your Back” presented by Dee Jepsen
11:20 – 11:40 a.m.

“The Legal Buzz on Hemp” presented by Peggy Hall
11:40 – 12:00 noon

“Current Status of African Swine Fever” presented by Scott Kenney
Noon to 12:20 p.m.

“Farm Income Forecasts: Are Farmers Experiencing Financial Stress?” presented by Ani Katchova
12:20 – 12:40 p.m.

“How Much Money Stayed on the Farm? 2018 Ohio Corn & Soybean Production Costs” presented by Dianne Shoemaker
12:40 – 1:00 p.m.

“Where Are We on U.S. Trade Policy” presented by Ian Sheldon
1:00 – 1:20 p.m.

“Farm Accounting: Quicken or Quickbooks” presented by Wm. Bruce Clevenger
1:20 – 1:40 p.m.

“Commodity Markets – Finding Silence in the Noise” by Ben Brown
1:40 – 2:00 p.m.

“GMOs, Food Animals, and Consumers” presented by Dr. Gustavo Schuenemann
2:00 – 2:20 p.m.

“Solar Leasing Options” presented by Peggy Hall & Eric Romich
2:20 – 2:40 p.m.

“Poultry Backyard Disease Management” presented by Dr. Geoffrey Lossie
2:40 – 3:00 p.m.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019
“Climate Smart- Weather, Climate & Extremes-Oh My!” presented by Aaron Wilson
10:00 – 10:20 a.m.

“The Legal Buzz on Hemp” presented by Peggy Hall
10:20 – 10:40 a.m.

“Zoonotic Diseases: Can I really get sick from my 4-H Project?” presented by Dr Jacqueline Nolting
10:40 – 11:00 a.m.

“Solar Leasing Options” presented by Peggy Hall & Eric Romich
11:00 – 11:20 a.m.

“Where Are We on U.S. Trade Policy” presented by Ben Brown
11:20 – 11:40 a.m.

“Impact of Peak Electrical Demand Charges in Agriculture” presented by Eric Romich
11:40 – 12:00 noon

“Crop Inputs & Cash Rent Outlook for 2020” presented by Barry Ward
12:00 – 12:20 p.m.

“Commodity Markets – Finding Silence in the Noise” by Ben Brown
12:20 – 12:40 p.m.

Public Perception Risk: Building Trust in Modern Agriculture by Eric Richer
12:40 – 1:00 p.m.

“Farm Stress-We Got Your Back” presented by Dee Jepsen
1:00 – 1:20 p.m.

“How Much Money Stayed on the Farm? 2018 Ohio Corn & Soybean Production Costs” presented by Dianne Shoemaker
1:20 – 1:40 p.m.

“Poultry Backyard Disease Management” presented by Dr. Geoffrey Lossie
1:40 – 2:00 p.m.

“Tax Strategies Under the New Tax Law” presented by Barry Ward
2:00 – 2:20 p.m.

“CRISPR gene editing: Are super animals within our reach?” presented by Dr. Scott Kenney
2:20 – 2:40 p.m.

“Using On-Farm Research to Make Agronomic and Return on Investment Decisions” presented by Sam Custer
2:40 – 3:00 p.m.

Thursday, September 19, 2019
“Horse Health Care and How to Feed a Horse” presented by Dr. Eric Schroeder
10:00 – 10:20 a.m.

“Farm Stress-We Got Your Back” presented by Dee Jepsen
10:20 – 10:40 a.m.

“Tax Strategies Under the New Tax Law” presented by Barry Ward
10:40 – 11:00 a.m.

“The Legal Buzz on Hemp” presented by Peggy Hall
11:00 – 11:20 a.m.

“Solar Leasing Options” presented by Peggy Hall & Eric Romich
11:20 – 11:40 a.m.

“Commodity Markets – Finding Silence in the Noise” by Ben Brown
11:40 – Noon

“Crop Inputs & Cash Rent Outlook for 2020” presented by Barry Ward
12:00 – 12:20 p.m.

“Antibiotic Use in Animals-Does it Impact for Human Health” presented by Dr. Greg Habing
12:20 to 12:40 p.m.

“Where Are We on U.S. Trade Policy” presented by Ben Brown
12:40 – 1:00 p.m.

“Swine Biosecurity” presented by Dr. Carlos Trincado
1:00 – 1:20 p.m.

“Nutritional Support for Ruminants in Winter” presented by Dr. Jeff Lakritz
1:20 – 1:40 p.m.

“How Much Money Stayed on the Farm? 2018 Ohio Corn & Soybean Production Costs” presented by Dianne Shoemaker
1:40 – 2:00 p.m.

The complete schedule for the Ask the Expert sessions and other events at the 2019 Farm Science Review can be found at: https://fsr.osu.edu/

Additional farm management information from OSU Extension can be found at ohioagmanager.osu.edu or farmoffice.osu.edu

Source:
David Marrison, OSU Extension
740-622-2265
Marrison.2@osu.edu

#leanonyourlandgrant

Back-to-school means different laws apply to youth farm workers

by: Peggy Kirk Hall, Associate Professor, Agricultural & Resource Law

Originally published at: https://farmoffice.osu.edu/blog/mon-08262019-909am/ohio-ag-law-blog%E2%80%94back-school-means-different-laws-apply-youth-farm-workers

When kids head back-to-school, it’s time for farmers to do some homework and recall the rules that apply to youth working on farms during the school year.   Once school is in session, Ohio labor laws place restrictions on the times of day and number of hours that youth under the age of 18 can work on a farm.  The laws don’t apply to parents, grandparents, or legal guardians, however.  For other farm employers, be aware that the laws vary according to the age of the minor and some require written parental consent.  Here’s a quick refresher:

16 and 17 year olds

  • Cannot work before 7:00 a.m. on school days, with the exception that they can work starting at 6:00 a.m. if they were not working past 8:00 p.m. the night before.
  • Cannot work after 11:00 p.m. on a school night, which means a night when the minor has school the next day.
  • No daily or weekly limits on the number of hours the youth can work.

14 and 15 year olds

  • Cannot work during school hours while school is in session.
  • Cannot work before 7:00 a.m. or after 7:00 p.m., but can work until 9:00 p.m. from June 1 to September 1 or during any school holiday or break lasting more than 5 weekdays.
  • Cannot work more than 3 hours during a school day or more than 8 hours during a non-school day.
  • Cannot work more than 18 hours in a week while school is in session, unless the job is part of a work education program such as vocational training or work study.

12 and 13 year olds

  • The same time restrictions and daily and weekly hour limits for 14 and 15 year olds (above) apply to 12 and 13 year olds, but there is no exception to the 18 hour weekly limit for vocational training or work study programs.
  • Employer must obtain written parental consent for the youth to be working, unless the youth’s parent or legal guardian also works on the same farm.

Under 12 years old

  • Can only work on a farm where employees are exempt from the federal minimum wage, which includes a farms of an immediate family member or a “small farm” that used fewer than 500 “man days” of agricultural labor in any calendar quarter the preceding year.  A “man day” is a day during which an employee performs agricultural work for at least one hour.
  • Exception to the above:  local youths 10 and 11 may hand harvest short-season crops outside school hours for no more than 8 weeks between June 1 and October 15 if their employers have obtained special waivers from the U.S. Secretary of Labor.
  • The same daily time restrictions and daily and weekly hour limits for 14 and 15 year olds (above) apply to youth under 12 years old, but there is no exception to the 18 hour weekly limit for vocational training or work study programs.
  • Employer must obtain written parental consent for the youth to be working.

The other labor laws that typically apply to youth doing agricultural work on a farm continue to apply throughout the school year. For example, employers must maintain records for youth employees, provide a written agreement of compensation and a statement of earnings on payday, and a 30-minute rest period if the youth works more than five consecutive hours. An employer can’t assign any youth under the age of 16 with a “hazardous” job or task unless the youth is 14 or 15 and has a certificate of completion for tractor or machine operation. Further information about these and other laws that apply to youth under 18 working on a farm is in our new Law Bulletin, Youth Labor on the Farm: Laws Farmers Need to Know, available here.

https://farmoffice.osu.edu/sites/aglaw/files/site-library/YouthLabor.pdf

Changes on the Horizon for H-2A Temporary Agricultural Labor Rules

Written by Evin Bachelor, Law Fellow, OSU Extension Agricultural & Resource Law Program

Originally published at: https://farmoffice.osu.edu/blog/thu-08292019-1114am/ohio-ag-law-blog-changes-horizon-h-2a-temporary-agricultural-labor-rules

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) says that it has found a number of inefficiencies in the H-2A temporary agricultural labor visa program, and the department has a solution: change the program’s rules. The DOL has proposed a number of administrative rule changes that it believes will make the approval process move along quicker, relieve burdens on U.S. farms, and create a more level playing field with regards to pay. Before we talk about the rule changes, let’s recap what the H-2A program is.

H-2A is a visa program for seasonal agricultural laborers from other countries.

Labor shortages have plagued farms across the United States for decades. Congress first created a visa program for non-immigrant labor in the early 1950s, but it wasn’t until 1986 that Congress established the H-2A visa program for temporary agricultural workers. Under this program, farmers may apply to employ H-2A workers on their farm on a temporary or seasonal basis for up to a year, but may apply to renew the worker’s visa for up to three total years.

In order to hire H-2A workers, an employer must certify in an application to the DOL that there are not enough qualified domestic workers willing and able to perform temporary and seasonal agricultural labor. In order to prove that there is not enough domestic labor, the farmer must demonstrate an effort to advertise the available work in the local area.

Further, the farmer must demonstrate to the DOL that employing foreign workers will not negatively affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers. In other words, a farmer can’t hire foreign labor because it’s cheaper. A farmer is expected to pay the foreign workers the same as the farmer would pay domestic workers, based upon the higher of the DOL’s Adverse Effect Wage Rate, minimum wage, or prevailing wage.

What does the Department of Labor seek to change?

The DOL proposes to make several changes to the H-2A program’s administrative rules. Some of these changes update the rules to reflect what is already happening, while some make slight changes to the program’s overall scope.

  • Mandate e-filing. The DOL currently allows farmers to submit their applications online or in hard copy, but reports that 4/5 of applications are completed online. A review by the DOL has found that online applications get completed more quickly, have fewer errors, and reduce costs relative to hard copy submissions. Under the new rule, the DOL would require all applications to be completed online, unless the farmer has a disability or does not have internet access.
  • Allow e-signatures. The DOL currently requires farmers to sign a hard copy of their applications and either scan the document into the application or mail it. Under the new rule, the DOL would accept e-signatures as equal to handwritten signatures.
  • Subdivide the adverse effect wage rate based upon specific agricultural occupations. In the previous section, we noted that the farmer must pay the foreign workers the same as he or she would pay domestic workers. One way to determine that wage is to use the DOL’s Adverse Effect Wage Rate. Currently, the DOL has one rate for a state or region based upon the combined numbers for field and livestock workers. Under the new rule, the DOL would use Farm Labor Survey data to subdivide agricultural occupations in order to ensure that higher paying occupations, such as supervisors of farmworkers and construction laborers on farms, use an Adverse Effect Wage Rate that properly reflects the wages of those higher paying occupations, rather than one general rate for all agricultural workers.
  • Update the methodology for calculating prevailing wage standards. Another way to calculate the minimum wages of H-2A laborers is to base their pay off of the prevailing wage. The current method of calculating the prevailing wage, which has not been updated since 1981, requires in-person interviews of employers. Under the new rule, the DOL would eliminate the in-person requirement and allow states to collect data using more modern methods.
  • Incorporate guidance letters regarding animal shearing, commercial beekeeping, custom combining, and reforestation occupations into formal rules. When asked for an interpretation of its rules and policies, a federal agency may issue a guidance letter to the person seeking an interpretation. These guidance letters are not necessarily binding, and have no general application beyond the person seeking the interpretation. By incorporating the guidance into a formal rule, the interpretation holds the force of law. The DOL identified these occupations as unique relative to other agricultural occupations, and created a special set of procedures to obtain H-2A laborers to work these types of jobs.
  • Expand the definition of “agriculture” to include reforestation and pine straw activities. Currently, reforestation and pine straw occupations are only available for H-2B applications, which are for non-agricultural occupations. Under the new rule, these activities would be eligible for the agricultural based visa.
  • Reduce the time an employer must allow a domestic worker to apply for a job to 30 days. Currently, the DOL requires a farmer to hire all eligible, willing, and qualified U.S. workers who make themselves available to work until the half way point in the H2-A contract period. This means that if a farmer has H-2A laborers working under a six-month contract, then the farmer must hire any eligible, willing, and qualified domestic worker during the first three months of the contract. Under the new rule, the farmer would only have to leave such opportunity open to domestic workers for 30 days.
  • Allow an employer to stagger the entry of H-2A labor. Sometimes a farmer does not need all of the H-2A labor to arrive at once, but rather needs some to start on one date and then others to start on a different date. Currently, this would require the farmer to submit an application for each date on which the farmer needs H-2A labor. Under the new rule, the farmer would be able to submit one application but stagger the start dates of his or her workers over the course of 120 days. This 120-day clock begins on the day the first H-2A workers enter the U.S.

For more information about the proposed changes, visit the proposed rule’s entry on the Federal Register HERE.

https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/07/26/2019-15307/temporary-agricultural-employment-of-h-2a-nonimmigrants-in-the-united-states

The public may submit comments until September 24, 2019.

As part of the public rulemaking process, the DOL is seeking public input on the proposed rule changes. Members of the public may submit written comments to the DOL until Tuesday, September 24, 2019.

You may submit a comment online (visit https://www.regulations.gov/) or by mail (send to Adele Gagliardi, Administrator, Office of Policy Development and Research, Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue NW, Room N-5641, Washington, DC 20210). When mailing comments, be sure to include the rule’s Regulatory Information Number (RIN): 1205-AB89.

Solar Leasing Guide Available

By: Peggy Kirk Hall
Source: https://farmoffice.osu.edu/blog
Large “utility-scale” solar energy development is on the rise in Ohio.  In the past two years, the Ohio Power Siting Board has approved six large scale solar projects with generating capacities of 50MW or more, and three more projects are pending approval.   These “solar farms” require a large land base, and in Ohio that land base is predominantly farmland.   The nine solar energy facilities noted on this map will cover about 16,500 acres in Brown, Clermont, Hardin, Highland and Vinton counties.  About 12,300 of those acres were previously used for agriculture.

With solar energy development, then, comes a new demand for farmland:  solar leasing.  Many Ohio farmland owners have received post cards and letters about the potential of leasing land to a solar energy developer.  This prospect might sound appealing at first, particularly in a difficult farming year like this one.  But leasing land for a solar energy development raises many implications for the land, family, farm operation, and community.  It’s a long-term legal commitment–usually 25 years or more–that requires careful assessment and a bit of homework.

To help landowners who are considering solar leasing, we’ve joined forces with Eric Romich, OSU Extension’s Field Specialist in Energy Education, to publish the Farmland Owner’s Guide to Solar Leasing.  The online guide explains the state of solar energy development in Ohio, reviews initial considerations for leasing farmland to solar, and describes legal documents and common terms used for solar leasing.  The guide’s solar leasing checklist organizes the information into a list of issues to consider, things to do, people to consult, and questions to ask before deciding whether to enter into a solar lease.

The Farmland Owner’s Guide to Solar Leasing is available at no cost on our Farm Office website, here.  A separate Law Bulletin of The Farmland Owner’s Solar Leasing Checklist is also available on Farm Office, here.  We produced the guide in partnership with the National Agricultural Law Center at the University of Arkansas, with funding from the National Agricultural Library, Agricultural Research Service, at the United States Department of Agriculture.

New Podcast Episodes

by: Amanda Douridas, OSU Extension Educator

The Agronomy and Farm Management Podcast has been releasing new episodes every other week since May 2018 and is set to release its 29th episode next Wednesday. To make it easier for listeners to find past episodes, the podcast has a new landing page at http://go.osu.edu/AFM.

Here you will find a listing of all past episodes, descriptions of what we talked about and links to additional resources. We cover a wide range of topics for corn, soybean and small grain farmers on agronomic and farm management topics. Episodes include legal topics such as leases, LEBOR, and hemp; timely seasonal topics like disease, insects and weather; and operational improving strategies related to nutrient management, precision agriculture and grain marketing.

Stay up to date on the latest episodes by following us on Twitter and Facebook (@AFMPodcast) and adding us to your favorites in Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. Give us a good rating and review if you like the podcast! If there is a listening platform you would like us to broadcast on or you have a topic suggestion, reach out on social media or by email at Douridas.9@osu.edu.

 

Ohio Ag Law Blog – The Ag Law Harvest

Written by Evin Bachelor, Law Fellow, OSU Extension Agricultural & Resource Law Program

Here’s our latest gathering of agricultural law news that you may want to know:

Congress considers bankruptcy code changes with Family Farmer Relief Act of 2019.  Senator Grassley and Representative Delgado introduced companion bills in their respective chambers of Congress that would modify the definition of “family farmer” in the federal bankruptcy code.  The change would raise the operating debt limit for a family farmer from $3.2 million as listed in the U.S. Code to $10 million.  Sometimes a small change can make a big difference.  In chapter 12 of the bankruptcy code, a “family farmer” has special options that other chapters do not offer, such as the power to determine a long-term payment schedule and pay the present market value of the asset instead of the amount due on the loan.  Many farmers had not been able to take advantage of the special bankruptcy provisions because of the low debt limit, but that may change.  For more information on the bills, click HERE for S.897 and HERE for H.R. 2336.

Congress also considers changing the number of daily hours a driver may transport livestock.  The Transporting Livestock Across America Safely Act would instruct the Secretary of Transportation to amend the rules governing drivers who transport certain animals.  The changes would loosen restrictions on the number of hours that drivers may drive, and increase the types of activities that are exempt from counting toward the maximum time.  Travel under 300 miles would be exempt from the hours of service (HOS) and electronic logging (ELD) requirements.  Both chambers of Congress are considering this bill, and both companion bills are currently in committee.  For more information on the bills and to learn about the changes proposed, click HERE for S.1255 and HERE for H.R. 487.

It’s not too late to submit comments to the FDA about its potential cannabidiol rulemaking.  Electronic or written comments can be sent to the FDA until July 2nd, although the deadline to request to make an oral presentation or comment at tomorrow’s hearing has passed.  Click HERE for more information from the Federal Register about the May 31st hearing and submitting comments.

 

Meatpackers face second class-action lawsuit, and R-CALF refiles.  In our last edition of The Harvest, we talked about a new class-action lawsuit filed in Illinois federal court by a number of cattle ranchers, including R-CALF, against the nation’s largest meatpacking companies.  Now, another lawsuit has been filed in Minnesota federal court also alleging a price fixing conspiracy by the meatpackers.  The second lawsuit is being brought by a cattle futures trader, rather than a rancher.  After the second suit was filed, R-CALF voluntarily dismissed its case in Illinois to refile it in Minnesota.  This refiling allows the lawsuits to be heard by the same court.

 

Tyson sues the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.  Tyson, which is named as a defendant in the class action suits we just mentioned, is a plaintiff in a case against the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.  The company alleges that a FSIS inspector falsified an inspection of 4,622 hogs, which were intermingled with another 8,000 carcasses, at one of its Iowa facilities in 2018.  The company claims that the false inspection required it to destroy all of the carcasses, and cost nearly $2.5 million in total losses and expenses.  The complaint, which is available HERE, alleges four counts: negligence, negligent inspection, negligent retention, and negligent supervision.  The lawsuit is based on the legal principle that an employer is liable for the actions of its employee.

 

 

Ohio Case Law Update

 

Plaintiff must prove that a defendant wedding barn operator’s breach of a duty caused her harm.  Conrad Botzum Farmstead is a privately operated wedding and event barn located in the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area and on lease from the National Park Service.  The plaintiff in the case was attending a wedding at the barn, where she broke her ankle while dancing on a wooden deck.  The jury trial found that the barn operator was 51% at fault for her injuries, and awarded the plaintiff compensation.  However, the barn operator appealed the decision and won.  The Ohio Ninth District Court of Appeals found that the plaintiff did not introduce sufficient evidence to prove that any act or breach of duty by the barn operator actually or proximately caused the plaintiff to fall and break her ankle.  The case raises standard questions of negligence, but it is worth noting in the Ag Law Blog because the court did not base its decision on Ohio’s agritourism immunity statute.  The case is cited as Tyrrell v. Conrad Botzum Farmstead, 2019-Ohio-1874 (9th Dist.), and the decision is available HERE.

 

Ohio History Connection can use eminent domain to cancel Moundbuilders Country Club’s lease.  A Licking County judge ruled in early May that the Ohio History Connection, formerly the Ohio Historical Society, can reclaim full ownership of land that it had leased to a country club.  The Moundbuilders County Club has operated a golf course around prehistoric Native American earthworks for decades under a long-term lease with the state.  The Ohio History Connection sought to have the lease terminated in order to give the public full access to the earthworks as part of a World Heritage List nomination.  The judge viewed the request as sufficiently in the public interest to apply Ohio’s eminent domain laws.

Ohio Ag Law Blog – Here comes the sun: understanding important solar lease terms

Ohio Ag Law Blog – Here comes the sun: understanding important solar lease terms

Written by Evin Bachelor, Law Fellow, OSU Extension Agricultural & Resource Law Program

With all the rain and delayed planting that Ohio farmers have experienced this spring, signing a solar lease has been a very appealing prospect for many farmland owners. While this may be the right decision for a farm, it is very important that the farmland owner understand exactly what he or she is signing. Once an energy developer offers to pay you to enter into an agreement, and you sign that agreement, its terms will be legally binding.

In our recent blog post on solar leasing, we discussed some of the early documents that a farmland owner is likely to receive from an interested solar energy developer. Further, we gave some general advice on what farmland owners should do if an energy developer wants to discuss leasing his or her land. One of our main suggestions was to take the time to fully understand what the farmland owner is getting into, and that is where this post comes in.

In this blog post, we highlight some of the important provisions of a solar lease that you as a farmland owner should look for in your solar lease, and understand what they mean. A good solar lease will be very thorough, and include a lot of legalese. Our upcoming Ohio Farmland Owner’s Guide to Solar Leasing, due out in the next month, will go more in depth than this blog post on the terms below and more. It would also be a wise decision to consult with an attorney to ensure that your understanding of your solar lease reflects what the documents say.

For now, here are a few provisions to be on the lookout for in your solar lease:

The term. How long does this lease last? Most solar leases last for 20 to 30 years. This is the time during which solar energy is being collected and sold. Solar energy developers like this multi-decade duration because it allows them to use of the solar panels for their expected productive lifespan.

Thirty years is a long time. Many careers are retirement-eligible after that period, and many farms will transition to the next generation in that amount of time. This long of a term is not necessarily a bad thing. It just means that a farmland owner should look back and look ahead. Think back 30 years to 1989. What all has changed on your farm? What would it have looked like to not be able to use this ground for the past 30 years? Now look ahead. What do you expect your needs and those of your family to look like when this lease ends in 2049? Only you can determine if not being able to use your land for that long is a good thing.

Phases. How is this lease broken up? We just explained that most solar leases will last for 20 to 30 years, but that clock usually starts ticking once construction has started on the project. Solar energy developers will often reserve a year or two during which they can conduct their final feasibility studies and obtain necessary permits. Some leases structure this pre-construction phase as merely an option phase, meaning that the energy developer will pay a small amount of rent to keep its option alive for that one or two-year period, but it does not necessarily have to commence construction.

Further, toward the end of the term, the energy developer may have written in an option to renew for another 5 or 10 years. These renewals are often structured as a right that the energy developer may exercise merely by giving notice to the landowner. Additionally, in the middle, if there is a natural disaster that puts the operation out of service for any period of time, a solar lease may stop the clock from ticking until the project is operational again and solar energy is being collected.

The important take-away for the phases is being able to know when each phase begins and ends. When all of the different phases are combined, instead of just a 30-year lease, you could be looking at a 42-year agreement. The only way to know how long it could last is to thoroughly read the entire lease.

A description of the premises. Every solar lease will contain a description of the premises. If an entire parcel is being leased, then this part is fairly easy. However, if only a portion of the parcel is being lease, the farmland owner will want to make sure that the lease provides an adequate description so that the leased portion can be easily determined on the ground. Often, this will include a survey and maps. Knowing the boundaries is important because these leases are often exclusive, such that the farmland owner has little or no use or access of the leased land throughout the term.

Easements. What rights are being granted to the solar energy developer? Solar leases include a series of easements that give the solar energy developer the right to use your land. Some of the common easements include a:

• Construction easement: a right to cross over portions of the farmland owner’s property in order to construct the solar facility
• Access easement: a right to cross over portions of the farmland owner’s property to reach the solar facility
• Transmission easement: a right to install power lines, poles, and other equipment to transmit the energy produced by the solar panels to the grid
• Solar easement: a right to unobstructed access to the sun without interference from structures or other improvements
• Catch-all easement: a general right to do whatever is necessary for the benefit of the project

Solar energy developers want their easements to be as broad and generous as possible in order to maximize their flexibility with the project. This is not always to the advantage of the farmland owner. If the lease is general enough to allow the solar energy developer to sub-lease to another entity such as a telecommunications company, the landowner will have a difficult time preventing the solar energy developer from doing so. The farmland owner wants to make sure that the easements being granted are specific enough to not result in any surprises.

Landowner obligations and rights. What does the lease require of you as the farmland owner? Usually private solar energy developers include a non-interference provision, a quiet enjoyment provision, and an exclusivity provision. All combined, these provisions are a promise by the farmland owner to not enter the solar facilities without prior permission, not interfere with the solar facilities, and not allow anyone else to do so for the duration of the term.

Further, solar leases often include a confidentiality provision that courts will enforce as legally binding. These provisions allow the solar energy developer to control the flow of its proprietary information, and also prevent landowners from talking with one another about topics such as rent rates. It is important to understand:

• What information is protected
• If there are any exceptions
• When consent might be granted
• If specific penalties apply
• How long confidentiality lasts

The solar lease may also include a provision about farmland owner improvements. These explain if and when the landowner needs to obtain prior approval of the solar energy developer in order to build a structure or plant something that may interfere with the solar project.

Property maintenance. Who is going to mow? Ohio landowners have a legal duty to cut noxious weeds, and a well drafted lease will cover which party to the lease bears responsibility for keeping the leased land clear. Usually, the solar energy developer will take this responsibility, but it helps to have this in writing.

Cleanup terms. Cleanup involves a lot of questions. Does the solar lease require the solar energy developer to restore the land to its previous state? If so, how is this measured? Will all stakes and foundations be removed? Will all improvements, like roadways, be removed? How will the solar energy developer guarantee that it will be able to pay for this cleanup in 30 years? Does it post a security, and if so, when? A thorough lease will answer these questions.

Tax and conservation penalties. Tax and conservation also involves a lot of questions because constructing and operating a solar facility will make the property ineligible for the full benefits of CAUV and most conservation programs. Does the lease require the solar energy developer to cover real estate taxes? Does the lease require the solar energy developer to cover the three-year lookback penalty for removing land from CAUV? What will the solar energy developer do toward the end of the lease so that the land can be put back into production and made CAUV eligible again? Similar questions must be asked for conservation programs.

Compensation. It’s not that we saved the fun and best part for last. We just wanted to make sure that compensation is not the first and only thing considered when deciding whether or not to enter into a solar lease. While it certainly is important, some of the issues discussed above must be just as carefully understood.

The solar leases that we have seen involve cash rent that increases over time based upon a fixed escalator. The escalator is a percent increase. If the escalator increases at a rate greater than inflation, then the farmland owner will receive more bang for his or her land. However, if the escalator increases at a rate lower than long-term inflation, then the solar energy developer will have to pay less over time.

Another point of compensation to consider is how damages will be calculated for harm to property and crops. When the solar energy developer decides it is time to start construction, its option and easements grant it the right to begin construction even if there is a crop already in the ground. This makes it in a farmland owner’s best interest to have this issue addressed up front. These damages will often be calculated my multiplying the number of acres by the average county yield for that crop by that crop’s commodity future price with the Chicago Board of Trade for a given date. This provides an objective calculation for damages.

Verbal promises. A note of caution: if the solar energy developer makes you a verbal promise, ask for that promise to be included in the written lease. If there is a conflict between what a representative of the solar energy developer tells you and what is written in the lease, the terms in the written lease are likely to prevail.

The activity we are seeing across Ohio right now with solar reminds us of the early stages of the recent wind and shale energy booms. Some of the biggest regrets that we hear about are from landowners who thought they were getting a better deal than they actually did. Reading through, understanding, and thinking about the lease is an essential part of calculating whether or not the lease being offered is actually a good deal for a farmland owner and his or her family. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your team of professionals in this process. Your attorney, tax professional, extension educator, and others can be a great resource.

Guidelines for Employing Youth on Your Farm

by: Chris Zoller, Extension Educator, ANR in Tuscarawas County

Students will be wrapping up their school year in a few short weeks and you may have a young person contact you about a summer job. Young people often have an interest to work on a farm and many are excellent employees. However, as an employer, there are rules and regulations you must understand before hiring minors to do work on your farm.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has established certain provisions to protect the safety of minors. In 1967, the U.S. Secretary of Labor determined certain agricultural jobs as hazardous to youth less than 16 years of age. There are two exemptions to these regulations:

1-The list of hazardous agricultural occupations does not apply to youth under 16 years of age working on a farm owned by their parents or guardians; and

2- The list of hazardous agricultural occupations does not apply to youth under 16 years of age who have completed an approved Tractor and Machinery Certification course. Such course allows youth who are 14 or 15 years of age to operate tractors over 20 horsepower for hire to someone other than their parents.

For most Ohio laws, anyone under 18 years of age is considered a minor and the Ohio Revised Code (ORC) prohibits minors from working in hazardous occupations. There are certain sections of the ORC that do not apply to minors, including obtaining an age and school certificate (unless you employ children of migrant workers), keeping a list of minor employees, and paying the minimum wage.

Agricultural occupations considered hazardous to youth under 16 years of age include:

  • Operating a tractor of more than 20 PTO horsepower, or connecting or disconnecting implements from such tractor;
  • Operating a combine, corn picker, hay mower, harvester, hay baler or potato digger;
  • Operating a feed grinder, grain dryer, forage blower, auger conveyor or the unloading mechanism of a non-gravity type self-unloading wagon or trailer;
  • Operating a trencher, earth moving equipment, fork lift, power-driven circular, band or chain saw;
  • Working in a yard, stall, or pen occupied by a bull, boar or stud horse; or sow with suckling pigs or cow with newborn calf;
  • Felling, bucking, skidding, loading or unloading timber with butt diameter of greater than six inches;
  • Working on a ladder at a height of more than 20 feet;
  • Driving a bus, truck or automobile or riding on a tractor as a passenger;
  • Working in a forage, fruit, or grain storage facility; an upright silo within two weeks after silage has been added or when a top unloading device is operating; a manure pit; or a horizontal silo when operating a tractor for packing purposes;
  • Handling or applying pesticides with the words or symbols “Danger”, “Poison”, “Skull and Crossbones”, or “Warning” on the label;
  • Handling or using blasting agents;
  • Transporting, transferring, or applying anhydrous ammoniaThere may be restrictions to the number of hours and when a minor can perform farm work. See the table for a summary:
14-15 years old 16-17 years old
 

 

 

School in

Session

Cannot work before 7am or after 7pm.

Cannot work more than 3 hours in a school day.

Cannot work more than 18 hours per school week.

Cannot work during school hours unless employed in a certified vocational training program.

Cannot work before 7am or 6am if not employed after 8pm the previous night.

Cannot work after 11pm Sunday through Thursday.

No limitations in hours per day or per week.

 

 

School not in

Session

Cannot be employed before 7am or after 9pm.

Cannot work more than 8 hours per day.

Cannot work more than 40 hours per week.

No limitation on starting and ending time.

No limitation in hours per day or per week.

Federal regulations require employers of youth under 16 years of age to maintain records about each employee. Minors employed by a parent or guardian are exempt from this requirement.

The Ohio Revised Code exempts agricultural employers from record keeping requirements for minors. However, the Ohio Revised Code does require an agreement as to wages for work to be performed be made between the employer and minor before employment begins. The agreement should be in writing and signed by both parties.

Additional information about the employment of minors in agriculture is available from this OSU Extension Fact Sheet: https://farmoffice.osu.edu/blog/fri-04122019-340pm/ohio-agricultural-law-blog-navigating-ohio%E2%80%99s-line-fence-law.