**This article is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.**
Earlier this week I participated in the Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course here in College Station. It is an amazing event and it was great to see so many cattle producers (and cowboy hats!) around campus. For new readers joining us from Short Course, welcome! Here are a few ag law stories making headlines this week.
* Whopping Cranes Could Harm Water Supply. On Thursday the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Court heard arguments in a case that could impact the Texas water supply. The Arkansas Project v. Shaw is a case between environmental groups and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The lawsuit alleges that the TCEQ violated the Endangered Species Act when it failed to protect the only wild whooping crane flock in the world, that lives northeast of Corpus Christi. The groups claim that because the TCEQ (the Texas entity charged with managing surface water) issued water diversion permits to applicants, it did not allow enough fresh water to flow from rivers into the refuge and 23 birds died in 2008 and 2009. Earlier this year the district judge sided with the environmental groups and ordered the TCEQ to create a conservation plan and prohibit the agency from issuing any more surface water permits in the river systems of the refuge. The TCEQ appealed, arguing that the decision violates state sovereignty by requiring a state entity to enforce federal laws. The TCEQ claims its responsibility is only to deal with water rights holders and applicants, not to enforce federal laws protecting animals. Oral argument was held before the Fifth Circuit yesterday, but a decision is likely months away. [Read article here.]
* Judge Halts Horse Slaughter Plant Opening. Last Friday, the Chief Judge for the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico issued a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) prohibiting the USDA from inspecting packing plants in Roswell, New Mexico and Sigourney, Iowa and enjoining plants from beginning operations. The TRO was issued because the judge found that the USDA failed to complete environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act related to the drug residue potential in water runoff. The groups seeking the TRO, including the Humane Society of the United States and Front Range Equine Rescue, were ordered to post a total bond of nearly $500,000 yesterday. A bond is ordered in TRO proceedings to ensure that damages for costs and lost profits will be available to the plants if the plaintiffs are not eventually successful.
* New York City Bar Association Threatens Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. The American Bar Association is considering a request to Congress to repeal the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (“AETA”). The AETA, passed in 2006, provides criminal penalties for animal rights activists that attack legitimate animal industries. The act allows the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies to investigate and federally prosecute terrorists acts against animal enterprises. “Animal enterprises” include animal agriculture, scientific research, and animal uses for education and entertainment. Specifically, the law prohibits: (1) intentionally damaging or causing the loss of real or personal property; (2) intentionally placing a person in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury; and (3) conspiring to commit either of these two acts for the purpose of damaging or interfering with the operations of an animal enterprise. The New York City Bar Association has requested that the American Bar Association ask Congress to repeal the AETA, claiming that it violates the First Amendment. The American Bar Association will vote on this resolution at its meeting next Monday.
* All That Is Right With 4-H. Although not necessarily ag law related, the High Plains Journal recently published an article titled, “All That Is Right With 4-H.” Having grown up in the 4-H and FFA programs, and being a huge supporter and proponent of those organizations, I thought that I would share. [Read article here.]