Aaron M. Phelps

Aaron M. Phelps

Varnum LLP

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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 Manufacturers 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

Congress Holds Hearing on Proposed “Waters of the United States” Rule

On February 4, 2015, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee questioned EPA officials about a proposed rule to redefine the term "waters of the...more

3/5/2015 - Congressional Investigations & Hearings EPA Proposed Regulation US Army Corps of Engineers Waters of the United States

NASDA Supports National Uniform Labeling Policy for Genetically Modified Foods

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) passed a resolution to support a national uniform labeling policy for genetically modified foods (GMO). The purpose of this resolution is to have a uniform...more

3/3/2015 - Department of Agriculture Food Labeling Food Manufacturers GMO

Grants Available for Specialty Crops – March 26 Deadline

In early February 2015, a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Agricultural and Rural Development (MDARD) announced the availability of a series of grants for Michigan specialty crop growers. The grants are funded by...more

3/2/2015 - Farms Grants

Growing Michigan - Fourth Quarter 2014

In This Issue: - GAPPs Improve Michigan Food Processing - 30 Projects Announced to Support Michigan Specialty Crop Growers - Proposed Privacy Fences Around Michigan Apiaries - Great Lakes Ag-Tech...more

12/24/2014 - Economic Development Entrepreneurs Farms Food Manufacturers Immigration Reform Incubators

GAPP Improves Michigan Food Processing

The Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development recently adopted Generally Accepted Processing Practices ("GAPPs"), which serve to promote and grow a healthy food processing industry in Michigan. Functioning...more

12/22/2014 - Farms Food Manufacturers Food Safety Food Supply

Proposed Privacy Fences Around Michigan Apiaries

The Michigan Department of Agriculture is considering a change to Michigan's Generally Accepted Agricultural Practices ("GAAMPs") that would compel beehive owners to "block" their apiaries from neighboring properties....more

12/16/2014 - Farms Property Owners

Great Lakes Ag-Tech Business Incubator Helps Entrepreneurial Farmers

State Representative Joe Haveman recently announced the State of Michigan's $500,000 contribution to the new Great Lakes Ag-Tech Business Incubator, a 501(c)(6) nonprofit. The Incubator offers specialized assistance to...more

12/15/2014 - Entrepreneurs Farms Incubators Startups

Growing Michigan - Third Quarter 2014

In This Issue: - Food and Drug Administration Not Required to Ban Antibiotics Given to Food-Producing Animals - U.S. Department of Agriculture Expands Crop Insurance under 2014 Farm Bill -...more

10/8/2014 - Antibiotic Resistance Antibiotics Broadband Clean Water Act Crop Insurance EPA Farm Bill FDA Food Safety Rural Broadband Experiments USDA

Food and Drug Administration Not Required to Ban Antibiotics Given to Food-Producing Animals

A federal appeals court recently ruled that the Food and Drug Administration ("FDA") does not have to ban the practice of feeding antibiotics to healthy, food-producing animals. This ruling is controversial because of public...more

10/7/2014 - Antibiotics Farm Animals Farms FDA

U.S. Department of Agriculture Expands Crop Insurance under 2014 Farm Bill

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently implemented provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill to expand insurance coverage options for farmers and ranchers. The new Supplemental Coverage Option ("SCO") is designed to help protect...more

10/7/2014 - Crop Insurance Department of Agriculture Farm Bill Farms

Lawmakers Hold Hearing on Improving Broadband Access in Rural Areas

The U.S. House Agricultural Committee's subcommittee on Livestock, Rural Development, and Credit, recently held a hearing to examine ways to improve and expand broadband in rural areas and to coordinate future investments...more

10/6/2014 - FCC Infrastructure Rural Development Telecommunications USDA

EPA Amends Clean Water Act Regulations to Require Sufficiently Sensitive Test Methods

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finalized amendments under the Clean Water Act that require permit applicants under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program to use "sufficiently...more

10/6/2014

No Michigan Wolf Hunt for 2014

The Michigan Natural Resource Commission recently decided that it will not hold a wolf hunt this year, even if voters approve two referendums on the November 4 ballot permitting wolf hunting. The November 4 referendums ask...more

10/1/2014 - Citizen Initiative Campaigns Hunting

Proposed MAEAP Rules Narrow “Right to Farm” Protection

Proposed rule changes in the Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) have excluded some farmers from MAEAP verification and protection....more

9/30/2014 - Environmental Policies Farms Livestock Protocol

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