**This article is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.**
Here are a few ag law stories that were in the news this week. I hope everyone enjoys the last weekend in July–the summer is flying by!
1. A new federal study reports that climate change will make it increasingly difficult for New Mexico to meet its legal obligations to deliver water downstream under various water compacts. This includes concern over deliveries from New Mexico to Texas under the Rio Grande Compact. [Read article here.]
2. North Dakota has recently been studying the affects of dust on crops. Specifically, the study will look at the impacts on crops from increased rural traffic due to oil drilling. The study began after the state received complaints from numerous farmers and ranchers in North Dakota who claimed that dust from traffic on dirt roads stunted crops, caused allergic reactions in livestock, and damaged pasture land. [Read article here.]
3. The Animal Legal Defense Fund has filed suit against the California State Fair over the use of farrowing crates in a nursery exhibit at the fair. The lawsuit claims that the California State Fair violates animal cruelty laws by using farrowing crates. The ALDF argues that these crates deprive pigs of exercise, cause “needless suffering,” and deprive the pigs of their “maternal instinct to engage in nest-building behavior.” The lawsuit seeks alternative housing–specifically open pens–for the pigs, and seeks to prevent transporting the sows to the fair so close to giving birth due to stress on the animals. The State Fair issued a written statement explaining hat farrowing crates are standard practice in the commercial hog industry, and that veterinarians are on sight at all times during the fair to monitor the animals and answer questions from visitors. The Livestock Nursery Exhibit, which allows visitors to witness live births of pigs, cows and sheep and to ask questions of veterinarians, is one of the most popular exhibits at the fair. [Read article here.]
4. The New Mexico Environment Department has denied the request from Valley Meat Company, a packing plant in Roswell that intends to commence horse slaughter operations on August 5, 2013, to renew its lapsed water discharge permit. The NMED will require a public hearing before determining whether to renew the permit. Also this week, several people including actor Robert Redford, former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, and current New Mexico Attorney General Bill King announced that they will seek to intervene in a lawsuit filed by animal rights groups against Valley Meat Company and another Iowa-based plant in order to oppose horse slaughter. [Read articles here and here.]
5. A lawsuit has been filed in Utah seeking to overturn a state statute that prohibits undercover filming or photographing of livestock operations. Violators are guilty of a misdemeanor and could face up to one year in jail. The Animal Legal Defense Fund and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals filed the lawsuit in federal court. The groups argue that the Utah statute violates the First Amendment. [Read article here.] Several other states have enacted similar statutes, including Iowa, Montana, North Dakota, and Kansas.
6. A recent decision by the Texas Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit discusses a landowner’s ability to challenge a proposed annexation of property. In Cockins v. City of Lakeway, the court found that landowners have standing to challenge whether the city had the power to annex land, but do not have standing to challenge whether the city correctly followed procedural requirements. In this case, the court found that landowners could properly challenge whether the annexation was completed within the required 90 day period and whether the property fell within a statute describing the type of land could be annexed. On the other hand, the landowners lacked standing to challenge whether the city complied with various procedural provisions in the Local Government Code. Standing to challenge the procedural requirements is vested only with the State. [Read full opinion here.]
7. Lastly, there is some news related to a lawsuit I mentioned two weeks ago that was filed by the Farm Bureau Federation and the National Pork Producers Council to seek to prevent the EPA from disclosing producer’s confidential information to animal rights groups. This issue has now also moved into Congress as two senators are proposing legislation to prevent the EPA from disclosing personal information. The Farmer Identity Protection Act [read full text here] would prohibit the EPA from providing the following information: Names, telephone numbers, email addresses, physical addresses, GPS coordinates, or other information identifying the location of the owner, operator, livestock or employee. The bill points to the fact that most livestock operations across the United States are operated by families living at the same location as the livestock and that disclosing information about the livestock location is akin to disclosing personal address information for the producers. The bill also cites concerns of domestic terrorism if personal information is disclosed. The bill would recognize exceptions to the prohibition on disclosure if the producer consented to the disclosure, if it was used in forming aggregate information that did not specify the specific operation, or for use by state or federal authorities.