**This article is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.**
It has been a busy week for ag law-related stories in the news. Here are recaps of some of the major stories this week.
* AQHA Files Appeal in Cloning Suit. The American Quarter Horse Association filed its formal notice of appeal on Monday. As you’ve previously read, this summer an Amarillo jury ruled against the AQHA, finding that its rules prohibit the registration of clones violate federal and state antitrust laws. On August 22, Judge Mary Lou Robinson entered a final judgment in the case and ordered the AQHA to begin registering clones and their offspring immediately. In addition to appealing the jury verdict, the AQHA also seeks a stay of Judge Robinson’s order pending appeal. If granted, the stay would delay Judge Robinson’s order, and allow the AQHA to refuse to register clones until the appeals process is complete. If the stay is not granted, the AQHA will begin registering clones based upon the court-mandated rules. [Read AQHA statement here.] To read all Texas Agriculture Law posts on the AQHA cloning suit, click here.
* Why College Students Need Estate Plans. The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting article this week encouraging college students to get an estate plan. In particular, the article discussed the importance of having students sign both medical and general powers of attorney to allow parents (or another trusted person) to make healthcare or financial decisions in the event that the student is unable to make such decisions. [Read article here.]
In Texas, statutory forms for both a medical power of attorney of attorney exist and may be found online. Click here for the Medical Power of Attorney form (Texas Health and Safety Code Sections 166.163 and 166.164) and here for the Durable Power of Attorney form (Texas Probate Code Section 490). The same is true for New Mexico, and those statutory forms may be found here for an Advanced Healthcare Directive and here for a General Power of Attorney. As always, before signing any legal document it is important to have a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction review the document and to provide legal advice.
* New Mexico to Release Pecos Water to Texas. The Carlsbad Irrigation District announced last week that it will release over 17,000 acre feet of water in the Pecos River to Texas. Under the Pecos River Compact, enacted in 1949, New Mexico is required to send water to Texas. In times of drought, however, New Mexico is not required to send water until the drought ends, at which time it must send the water owed, including all water not sent during the drought period. Currently, New Mexico’s water deficit under the Pecos River Compact is approximately 102,000 acre feet. After a lawsuit between Texas and New Mexico over the Compact in 2003, a settlement agreement requires that when the water supply in the Pecos River Basin is over 90,000 acre feet, water must be released to Texas. [Read article here.] It is important to note that this compact and water is wholly unrelated to the Texas v. New Mexico lawsuit pending in the United States Supreme Court related to the waters of the Rio Grande, which you read about last week.
* Bowie County Transmission Line Land Acquisition Underway. Southwestern Electric Power Company will be building a transmission line in Bowie County. The Texas Public Utility Commission recently approved a route for this project. Recently, landowners who will be impacted by this project have begun to receive letters from Southwestern regarding the condemnation of their land. [Read alert here.]
* FOIA Decision in California Impacts Poultry Farms. In August, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California decided a case involving whether Texas poultry producers’ information could be released in response to a Freedom of Information Act Request (“FOIA”). The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a FOIA request with the FDA seeking information related to egg safety, egg production, and egg production facilities in Texas. The FDA gathered responsive documents, but made redactions to the information under FOIA Exemption 4, which prohibits the disclosure of confidential commercial information. Specifically, the FDA redacted the following information: total hen population; number of hen houses; number of floors per house; number of cage rows per house; number of cage tiers per house; an number of birds per cage. The Plaintiffs appealed these redactions. The Court held that with the exception of number of birds per cage, the information was confidential commercial information within the protections of Exemption 4, and was properly withheld from disclosure. [Read full opinion here.]
* California Fracking Bill Signed by Governor. The California fracking bill, which was discussed last week on this blog, has been signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. The bill will go into effect January 1, 2014 and will require oil companies to obtain fracking permits, provide notice to nearby landowners, disclose the chemicals used in the fracking process, and monitor groundwater and air quality near wells. [Read article here.]
*Free Webinar to Preview US Supreme Court Term. For those of you interested in the cases that will be before the United States Supreme Court this fall, the State and Local Legal Center is hosting a free webinar on October 22, 2013 to review the upcoming cases. You can find more information here.