Aaron M. Phelps

Aaron M. Phelps

Varnum LLP

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Fish Farming Bills Proposed in Michigan

Competing bills in the Michigan House have two very different views of allowing fish farms in Michigan. Michigan Radio Network recently reported that Rep. Ed McBroom (R-Escanaba) has sponsored a bill that would allow fish...more

3/28/2016 - Environmental Policies Fishing Industry Inland Waterways Proposed Legislation

Senate Agriculture Committee to Review GMO Labeling Bill

The Senate Agriculture Committee is in the process of moving forward with a GMO Labeling Bill. Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, released a discussion draft of the bill in February, and has the support of the American...more

3/22/2016 - Farm Bureau Farms Food Labeling Food Manufacturers Food Safety GMO USDA

U.S. Court of Appeals Issues Split WOTUS Ruling

On February 22, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (Cincinnati) issued a split 2-1 decision, ruling that it has jurisdiction to proceed with challenges to the Obama administration's "Waters...more

3/21/2016 - Environmental Policies Groundwater Obama Administration Water Waters of the United States

Biosecurity Best Practices Gaining Awareness on Michigan Farms

Farm biosecurity, a series of management practices and measures designed to minimize or prevent the entry and spread of pests and diseases onto a farm, is drawing increased attention in recent years. Part of the growing...more

3/17/2016 - Agricultural Land Farm Animals Farms Infectious Diseases

Expanded Crop Insurance Options for Farmers Transitioning to Certified Organic Agriculture

The USDA recently announced expanded crop insurance options to allow producers to purchase insurance coverage that better reflects their product's actual value. The expanded coverage is part of the USDA's continued commitment...more

3/15/2016 - Agricultural Land Crop Insurance Farms Insurance Industry Organic USDA

Appeals Court Rejects Obama’s Immigration Plan

A United States Court of Appeals has ruled that President Obama cannot move forward with plans to overhaul immigration rules by providing up to five million people with work permits and protection from deportation. According...more

12/28/2015 - Deportation Immigration Reform Obama Administration Work Permits

Ag Committee Leaders Oppose Crop Insurance Cuts

Recently the House Agriculture Committee stood firm on the promise against reopening the Farm Bill to new crop insurance cuts. The High Plains Journal reports that leaders feel that the proposed cuts to crop insurance in the...more

12/21/2015 - Agricultural Land Crop Insurance Farm Bill Farms Insurance Industry

Many Michigan Farms Having Difficulty Finding Seasonal Workers

Michigan farms are having trouble finding seasonal workers because migrant workers are becoming more interested in permanent positions. Michigan Farm Bureau has reported that migrant workers fill about 40,000 seasonal jobs on...more

12/15/2015 - Agricultural Workers DOL Farm Workers H-2A Hiring & Firing Seasonal Workers

Senate Votes To Do Away with WOTUS

In November, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution of disapproval (SJR 22) to get rid of the controversial "Waters of the United States" rule (WOTUS). A wide range of farm groups oppose the legislation which is aimed at...more

12/14/2015 - Agricultural Land Clean Water Act Waters of the United States

Did You Grow Corn in the Past Two Years? You’re Part of a Lawsuit

Corn farmers across the county have collectively filed more than 20,000 lawsuits against Syngenta. In 2010, Syngenta released GMO seed before it was approved by some export markets, most notably China. That GMO corn later...more

9/23/2015 - Agricultural Land China Class Action Embargo Farms GMO Reasonable Care

Pesticide Bill Would Eliminate Duplicative Permitting

In 2009, a federal court ruling required pesticide users to now apply for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, under the Clean Water Act (CWA), if chemicals were sprayed over, near or into a body...more

9/22/2015 - Clean Water Act EPA FIFRA NPDES Operational Permits Pesticides Toxic Chemicals

Mandatory GMO Labeling Quashed Under House Bill

In late July, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act. The controversial legislation, as passed by the House, creates a national voluntary standard for the labeling of foods with GMO...more

9/17/2015 - Farms FDA Food Labeling GMO Labeling Nutrition Facts Labels Organic Product Labels

Federal Judge Blocks WOTUS Rule, Michigan Files Separate Suit

The Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers’ “Waters of the United States” Rule (WOTUS) that was supposed to go into effect on August 28, 2015, was blocked when North Dakota U.S. District Judge Ralph...more

9/15/2015 - Clean Water Act Drinking Water Energy Sector EPA Farms Injunctions Regulatory Standards US Army Corps of Engineers Waters of the United States

Changes to the Terms of BCBSM’s Administrative Services Contracts in the Wake of Hidden Fees Suits

Effective January 1, 2016, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan ("BCBSM") will implement significant changes to the Administrative Services Contracts ("ASCs") issued to its self-funded customers. Notably, BCBSM has attempted to...more

7/23/2015 - Blue Cross Blue Shield ERISA Fiduciary Duty Healthcare Hidden Fees

Release of Personal Information Called ‘Unlawful’ and a ‘Threat to Privacy’ in Appeals Brief

After a federal district court dismissed a case filed against the EPA, thereby upholding the validity of the EPA's public release of personal information about farmers and their families, the American Farm Bureau Federation...more

6/18/2015 - Appeals Dismissals EPA Farms Privacy Concerns

DEQ Announces CAFO Permit Change to Protect Michigan Surface Waters

On May 4, 2015, Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced a change to its Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) discharge permits in an effort to better protect the environment and Michigan's...more

6/15/2015 - Agricultural Land Cattle Department of Environmental Quality Environmental Policies Farm Animals Farms Groundwater Wastewater

MDARD Workgroup Recommends Legislation to Support Urban Livestock Operations

Property owners who want to start or expand commercial livestock operations are required to go through a site verification process designed to ensure compliance with Michigan’s Generally Accepted Agricultural Management...more

6/11/2015 - Dairy Farmers Farms Livestock Protocol Nuisance Property Owners Proposed Legislation Right to Farm Act Urban Planning & Development

USDA Proposed Rule Limits Payments to Non-Farmers

A newly proposed rule issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) under authority of the 2014 Farm Bill limits farm payments to non-farmers. Under the current rule, individuals designated as farm managers were...more

6/8/2015 - Farm Bill Proposed Regulation USDA

New USDA Study Says COOL not Beneficial to American Consumers

Country-of-origin labeling (COOL) is not economically beneficial to American consumers, according to a new report authored by a team of agricultural economists from Kansas State University and the University of Missouri. In...more

6/4/2015 - Country of Origin Department of Agriculture Food Labeling Food Manufacturers Grocery Stores Manufacturers Retailers USDA WTO

Businesses May Have Until At Least 2017 To Recover Hidden Access Fees Taken By Blue Cross Blue Shield

Great news for the hundreds of businesses from which Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan charged hidden fees: a federal court's recent ruling indicates that the businesses have several more years to file claims against BCBSM...more

5/22/2015 - Blue Cross Blue Shield Class Action Health Insurance Hidden Fees Tolling TPAs

Federal Court Rejects BCBSM’s “Schedule A” Argument

In a recent decision in one of the many cases against Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan seeking return of hidden administrative fees, a federal court rejected one of BCBSM's primary arguments. BCBSM has consistently argued...more

5/8/2015 - Blue Cross Blue Shield Healthcare Hidden Fees

Federal Judge Rules BCBSM’s “Value of Blue” Report Did Not Disclose Hidden Fees

A federal judge in the case of Alma Products v. BCBSM recently agreed with arguments presented by Varnum that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan's "Value of Blue" report did not reveal that it was charging hidden fees (often...more

5/6/2015 - Blue Cross Health Insurance Hidden Fees Self-Funded Health Plans

New Rule Ahead for Farm Animal Antibiotics

A new rule concerning the use of antibiotics on farm animals is nearly finalized. The rule will require producers and distributors of antibiotic products to work more closely with veterinarians to determine whether...more

3/9/2015 - Antibiotics Farms New Regulations Pharmaceutical Industry Veterinarians

District Court Dismisses Country of Origin Labeling Lawsuit

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has dismissed the lawsuit filed by meatpackers and trade groups against the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This lawsuit challenged the constitutionality of a meat labeling...more

3/9/2015 - Country of Origin Dismissals Food Labeling Food Manufacturers USDA WTO

Protective Order Issued in Suit to Stop EPA from Releasing Farmers’ Information

A federal district court in Minnesota recently issued a protective order prohibiting the EPA from releasing information about animal feeding operations—including farmers' names, home addresses, telephone numbers and email...more

3/9/2015 - EPA FOIA Protective Orders Public Disclosure

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