July 19, 2013 Weekly Round Up

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

We’re coming to the end of another week.  Here are some of the top ag law-related stories making headlines.

1.  Last week, the United States House of Representatives passed a Farm Bill, after splitting out the nutrition portion for consideration at a later date.  House leaders say that a vote on the nutrition portion of the bill may come within the next week or two.  In the meantime, it waits to be seen what will happen when the House and Senate versions of the bills go into conference.  [For more information, read articles here and here.]

Photo via Jennifer Blackburn, National Sorghum Producers

 

2.  A decision from the Texas Second District Court of Appeals highlights the importance of ensuring that reservations of mineral rights are express when selling property.  In Thomason v. Badgett, Thomason granted a general warranty deed to land, but failed to expressly reserve his 50% of the mineral rights.  Instead, the deed made mention to the mineral rights that were recorded in two other prior deeds.  Because the Thomason deed did not expressly reserve the 50% of the mineral rights,  those rights were deeded to the new owner.   [Read full opinion here.]

Bottom line for landowners: This case sets forth important presumptions under Texas law.  First, courts presume that a deed is construed to convey to the grantee the greatest estate possible.  Thus, the presumption is that a grantor intends to convey all of his property to the grantee.  Second, it is presumed that a deed conveys all of the grantor’s interest unless the deed “clearly shows an intention to convey a lesser interest.”  Thus, anytime you sell property, be sure that all rights that you intend to reserve are expressly spelled out in the deed.

3.  In the last week, two articles have come out regarding the drought in New Mexico and the fact that farmers and ranchers in Eddy County are selling water to oil companies, rather than using the water to produce and sell crops.  [Read articles here and here.]  This is a situation that is seen in Texas as well, as oftentimes the sale of water is more profitable than the production of crops or livestock.

Critical advice for landowners/water rights holdersAnyone looking to sell water must ensure that he or she is complying with all state laws and permitting requirements.

4.  The U.S. House Energy Resources Committee recently passed a bill that proponents say will lead to increased oil and gas production in Texas.  H.R. 1900 would require federal agencies to either accept or deny applications for pipeline projects within one year and, if no decision was rendered during that time, the application would be approved by default.  [Read article here and read full text of the bill here.]
5.  Concerns regarding fracking and earthquakes have been in the news in the past week.  First up, USA Today published an article explaining that the disposal of water used in fracking has been linked to a rise in the number of earthquakes.   According to geologists cited in the article, the wastewater used in fracking increases pressure on quake faults when it is disposed of in deep disposal wells.  [Read article here.]   Second, an article published in Science by researchers at Columbia University explains that earthquakes in distant locations, such as China or Japan, may actually set off small tremors near oil-drilling sites in the United States.  Specifically, researchers pointed to tremors that occurred in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.  [Read news article here.]
6.  Lastly, the USDA has decided to re-examine a rule that would require a magician to develop a disaster plan for the rabbit he pulls out of a hat.  Marty Hahne, a Missouri magician, received a letter from the USDA that sought to enforce a new rule by requiring Mr. Hahne to develop a disaster plan to save his rabbit should a fire, flood, tornado, ice storm, or power failure occur.  The rule (see full text here and FAQs here) applies to warmblooded animals bred for commercial sale, used in research, transported commercially, or exhibited to the public.  After Mr. Hahne’s story was published in the Washington Post, the USDA announced that the rule would be reviewed and “common sense” would be applied.  For now, however, the rule requires Mr. Hahne to have a disaster plan in place by July 29.  [Read full story here.]

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