**This article is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.**
Here are some of the agricultural law stories making news this second week of September.
* Texas Groundwater Summit Presentations. A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Texas Groundwater Summit in San Marcos. It was a great conference put on by the Texas Alliance of Groundwater Districts. The presentations ranged from discussions about the basic authority of Groundwater Conservation Districts, to legal updates, to House Bill 4, to the potential use of brackish water, to fracking regulations, to underground disposal wells. There was a great variety of speakers: Texas Commissioner of Agriculture Todd Staples, several politicians, engineers, scientists, attorneys, city managers, and Groundwater Conservation District managers. The TAGD has a website where you can view all of the Power Point presentations given at the conference. There is some great information on this site–just click here.
* Mexico/United States Water Battle Update. As you recall from this prior post, Mexico and the United States have been in a battle over water owed to the US under a 1944 treaty. During the month of August, Mexico reduced their deficit of water owed to the US by nearly 100,000 acre feet. Both heavy rainfall and political pressure may have led to these additional diversions. As of August 31, 2031, Mexico’s deficit remains at 377,577 acre feet. [Read article here.]
* New Mexico County Fracking Ban Receives National Attention. Mora County, located in sparsely populated northern New Mexico has gained national attention after becoming the first county in the United States to pass a complete ban on fracking. The county understands that it could face litigation over this ban and has found a law firm willing to represent the county pro bono if litigation arises. [Read article here.] If other states are any indication, litigation may well occur. For example, you may recall from last week’s update that litigation over municipal bans on fracking is currently pending before the highest court in New York State.
* Interesting Missouri Statute Upheld. This week, the Missouri Supreme Court decided St. Louis County v. River Bend Estates Homeowners’ Association, an interesting case dealing with “just compensation” in condemnation proceedings. The United States Constitution (and most state constitutions, including the Texas Constitution) provide that private property may not be taken for public use without just compensation. Just compensation is generally defined as the market value of the property at the time of the taking. Missouri, however, has a statute that provides additional compensation, known as a “heritage value” for people whose families have the land being taken for more than 50 years. Specifically, the statute provides that when condemnation of property “prevents the owner from utilizing property in substantially the same manner as it was currently being utilized on the day of the taking and involving property owned within the same family for fifty or more years” the compensation shall be the fair market value plus a “heritage value” equal to 50% of the fair market value. In that instance, the proper amount of compensation is 150% of market value, rather than the normal 100% of market value. The condemner challenged the statute, claiming that it was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court disagreed and upheld the statute. [Read opinion here.]
What do you think–should additional value be given in cases where the land taken has been in a family for over 50 years? Is it unfair to award more compensation to certain landowners than to others for land with equal market value?
* COOL Injunction Denied. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction to prevent the USDA from implementing and enforcing its country of origin labeling regulations until a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the regulations is completed. As I have previously blogged about, in July a group of plaintiffs, including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, American Meat Institute, National Pork Council, and Southwest Meat Association filed a lawsuit challenging the regulations. In light of the court’s decision, the regulations–which require labeling describing where meat was born, raised and slaughtered and prohibits the mixing of meat from different countries–may be implemented despite the pending lawsuit.
* Discussion of Texas Groundwater management. The Southwest Farm Press reported that Texas groundwater was a topic of conversation this week at the Southwest Ag Issues Summit in Oklahoma City. The round-table discussion included the topics of potential federal regulation of groundwater, the fact that some politicians support a state-wide system of governing groundwater as opposed to the current local system of groundwater conservation districts, and discussion of the impact of fracking on groundwater in Texas. [Read article here.]