July 5, 2013 Weekly Round Up

**This article is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.**

I hope everyone had a great time celebrating the Red, White and Blue yesterday for the Fourth of July.  Here is this week’s round up of interesting stories related to agricultural law.

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The Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill last Friday. [Read the bill’s full text here.]  Included in the Senate bill is a section titled the “Agricultural Worker Program.”  This portion of the bill provides a method for undocumented individuals who have been involved in agriculture to obtain legal status.  Undocumented individuals who can document working in United States agriculture for a minimum of 100 workdays or 575 hours prior to December 31, 2012 may be eligible for a “Blue Card.”  The bill allows for spouses of agricultural workers meeting these requirements to obtain a Blue Card as well.  After a minimum of 5 years working in agriculture under the Blue Card for the required number of hours per year, the individuals will be eligible to apply for a green card, provided that they have no outstanding taxes, criminal convictions, and pay a $400 fee.  The bill has been sent to the House, for what many proponents believe will be an uphill battle.

*  Federal officials have granted a permit allowing a slaughterhouse in New Mexico the right to begin slaughtering horses.  After Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, New Mexico, filed suit alleging that the USDA was intentionally delaying the consideration of its application to slaughter horses, the USDA has now given the plant a “right of inspection”, meaning that the USDA is obligated to assign meat inspectors to the plant.  Passing USDA inspection is the next step for the plant to begin slaughtering horses.  If it passes inspection, Valley Meat Co. will become the first operation in the United States licensed to process horses since Congress banned the practice in 2006.   According to Valley  Meat Co.’s attorney, Blair Dunn, the battle is far from over.  The USDA must still supply inspectors for the plant before operations may begin, Congress has considered a bill to ban horse slaughter in the United States, and the Humane Society of the United Stats has filed suit against the USDA seeking to prevent inspections of horse slaughter houses.    The USDA intends to grant similar permits to operations in Missouri and Iowa.

Lawmakers continue to struggle going forward after the Farm Bill was defeated in the U.S. House.  Although it is unclear what direction the Farm Bill will go next, several possibilities have been discussed in the past week, including re-introducing the bill in the House, splitting the farm bill into two parts that would separate the nutrition portion of the bill, and extending again the 2008 farm bill.  Congress has until September 30, 2013 to act, or else the current Farm Bill will expire.  If that happens, according to experts, the program will revert to laws from 1949 that could greatly increase the cost of foods for Americans.  [Read articles here and here and here.]

*Neighbor lacks standing to sue for breach of restrictive covenant.  The Texas Twelfth Court of Appeals has dismissed a suit between neighbors for lack of standing.  Mr. Adams filed suit against his neighbor Mr. Wasson, alleging that Mr. Wasson’s keeping of livestock including pigs and goats, and multiple non-operational vehicles on his property breached a restrictive covenant.  Mr. Wasson’s property was deeded to his predecessor owner by the city, and the deed contained a restrictive covenant limiting the use of the property to “residential use only.”  The Court of Appeals dismissed the case, finding that Mr. Adams lacked sufficient standing to enforce the covenant.  Neither Mr. Adams, nor his predecessor in interest, were parties to the contract that contained the restrictive covenant that they sought to enforce.  Thus, Mr. Adams did not have the authority to bring the lawsuit.  Based upon the reasoning of this case, it appears that the city (who granted the land to Mr. Wasson’s predecessor) would have standing to sue, but they have not done so to date.  [Read the full opinion here.]

* SCOTUS Blog releases statistics about the United States Supreme Court’s latest term.  Now that the United States Supreme Court’s term has come to an end and the justices are enjoying their vacation, legal scholars have gathered statistics about the October 2012 term.  This may be interesting only to lawyers and other legal nerds like myself, but here are some of the highlights.  The Court issued 73 merits opinions, up from 65 during the 2011 term.  The Court reversed the lower court in 72% of cases that it decided.  The Court issued unanimous decisions in 31% of cases, and split 5-4 in 29% of cases.  Justice Kennedy continued to be known as the swing vote on the Court, and he was in the majority of a 5-4 decision 87% of the time.  [Read entire memo here.]

Oklahoma man hogties would-be burglar in front yard.  This is a comical story that may not be completely ag law related, but I justified including it because:  (1) It is funny; (2) hog tying is ag related; and (3) an arrest is law related.  [Read story here.]

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