Recently, Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz, P.C., otherwise known as “OFW Law,” celebrated 35 years of business with colleagues, family, friends and clients. We were extremely proud to share this milestone with those who have helped make OFW Law one of the leading firms practicing USDA and FDA law today.
Although OFW Law has expanded in other areas of law, the origin of OFW Law began in agricultural law and these roots remain strong today. Indeed, OFW Law is one of the most comprehensive agriculture law firms in the country, representing large and small companies and trade associations on a myriad of legal issues, ranging from food safety and nutrition, animal welfare and forestry, to everything in between. Together, our USDA practice team, consisting of 17 attorneys and Senior Policy Advisors, are capable of representing clients before virtually every agency of the USDA. Our most frequent interactions involve the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), Food Nutrition Service (FNS), Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration (GIPSA), Risk Management Agency (RMA) and Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC).
One attribute that makes the USDA practice team unique among its peers is its experience. Many of our professionals have served in high level agricultural positions in the government and/ or have a long history of working in or with the agriculture/food industry This has allowed our professionals to not only apply real world experience and technical expertise to solve difficult problems, but to identify the right contacts at USDA should issues need to be resolved at the Department.
The experience and expertise of our professionals have allowed the USDA practice team to tally many successes over the last 35 years. We are proud to share a few of our most notable ones, as follows:
- Our professionals have assisted numerous meat, poultry and other food clients design, implement and assess food safety, sanitation and quality control programs. With in-plant experience and training in HACCP principles, our professionals have helped clients not only comply with food safety requirements, but exceed them.
- Our professionals have successfully assisted clients in FSIS enforcement actions (e.g., Notice of Intended Enforcement Actions, Notice of Suspensions), providing advice which has allowed clients to avoid, or minimize the duration of, plant closures.
- Our practice team has helped numerous clients facilitate the marketing of their food and agriculture products, by assisting in obtaining government approval for new label claims and/or new ingredients/processing aids, or by helping to remove regulatory impediments for marketing their products. For example, we successfully petitioned FSIS to eliminate the standard of identity for pizza, giving frozen pizza manufacturers the flexibility to make more innovative products so they can better compete with pizzeria restaurant chains.
- Our practice team has successfully defended meat packers, poultry slaughterers, livestock dealers and market agencies in numerous GIPSA enforcements actions under the Packers and Stockyards Act. In one case, GIPSA filed a complaint seeking over $3 million in civil penalties against a packer for failing to notify livestock sellers, prior to purchasing livestock, of a more accurate formula used for grading pork carcasses. As a result of our representation of the packer, the Administrative Law Judge and Judicial Officer of USDA issued no civil penalties in the case.
- Following a successful multifaceted campaign by our team, AMS rewrote the Florida Tomato Marketing Order in 2005 to permit the nationwide distribution of the UglyRipe® tomato during the regulated Florida tomato season.
- When the Congress considered amendments to, and perhaps even repeal of, the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA), stakeholders turned to our professionals for counsel. The amendments resulted in preservation of the fair trade statute covering all fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables with more efficient reservation of PACA Trust benefits and a stabilized funding mechanism for USDA’s PACA Branch.
- Puerto Rico attempted to impose specific labeling requirements for shell eggs imported from outside the Commonwealth, including on the eggs themselves. We successfully challenged the regulations in federal court at both the district and appellate levels, with the First Circuit holding that Puerto Rico’s regulation violated the Dormant Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
- On FCIC Federal crop insurance, we have represented players on every side of the fast-growing program: approved insurance providers (AIPs), agents, farmers, product developers, and grower associations. In just one area, new insurance policies, we assisted in the approval of Livestock Risk Protection (LRP) for cattle, hogs, and lamb, margin protection for wheat and rice, oysters, barley, biotech corn, and many others. This past year, we assisted drought-hit farmers in Oklahoma and Texas on controversial claims, helped two insurance companies address oversight issues with RMA, and successfully urged changes in rules on treatment of indebted farmers.
This is a small snapshot of the long record that our group has assembled over the past 35 years, and we are very proud of it.