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Counties Ban GMO Production and Confidentiality of Nutrient Management Plans

Updated: Jul 9, 2020

Green field of crops (Photo by Edwin Remsberg).

Oregon Counties Ban GMOs

This week was Election Day for many states around the country. Oregon had two counties with interesting provisions on their ballots. Jackson and Josephine counties in Oregon had ballot measure that would ban the use of GMO crops in their counties. The electorate in both counties approved the measures by 66 percent in Jackson and 57 percent in Josephine (Click here to view Jackson’s ordinance and click here to view Josephine’s ordinance). Both ordinances provide for a 12 month grace period before enforcement will start and allows for enforcement by the county or a private citizen (The Oregonian article is here).

It is currently unclear if Josephine’s ordinance is even enforceable because the Oregon legislature passed legislation (SB 863) clearly defining that the state had the authority to regulate seeds (the same law excluded Jackson County because their ballot measure had already qualified for the ballot). From the 2012 Census of Agriculture, both counties have no soybean production and less than 10 farms in each county producing corn. These ordinances potentially face years of litigation before they could be enforced.

Nutrient Management Plan Confidentiality Plan Appeal

Confidentiality of nutrient management plans in Maryland was again the focus of the courts recently. Earlier this month, the Maryland Court of Appeals heard arguments on an appeal from the Waterkeepers Alliance on a ruling from the Court of Special Appeals last year. In the Court of Special Appeals ruling, the court found that the Maryland Department of Agriculture must redact any identifying information of who a nutrient management plan was prepared for and redact the same identifying information from any summary of a nutrient management plan (the full opinion can be found here). Waterkeepers appealed this decision.

The arguments on this appeal to the Court of Appeals track with the previous arguments made by the parties involved. Waterkeepers argues that the law only protects the nutrient management plan summaries for 3 years and not the plans themselves, MDA argues that the law requires them to protect both plans and summaries for 3 years and redact identifying information, and Maryland Farm Bureau argues the confidentiality would extend past the 3 year period if the information on older plans could disclose the identity of a nutrient management plan holder in a more recent plan. A video of the arguments is available here from the Court of Appeals. A ruling is expected over the summer and I will provide a summary of the opinion shortly after it is released.

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