October 18, 2013 Weekly Round Up

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

Here are a look at some of the stories related to agricultural law in the news this week.

 

1.  A bill, titled the Water Rights Protection Act, has been introduced in the United States Congress that would prohibit the US Secretary of Agriculture and Secretary of the Interior from conditioning any permit, lease, or other right to use federal property upon the granting of a water right to the United States.   [Read proposed bill here.]  The American Farm Bureau Federation has announced its support for this bill. [Read article here.]

 

2.  In addition to the water disputes between Texas and New Mexico and Florida and Georgia previously written about on this blog, a trial began this week in a suit between Montana and Wyoming.  Montana sued Wyoming and North Dakota alleging that Wyoming was withdrawing too much water from the Tongue and Powder rivers in violation of a 1950′s compact.  One of Montana’s main claims in the case is that coalbed methane drilling in Wyoming is depleting underground aquifers that feed into the river basins.   The suit was originally filed in the United States Supreme Court in 2007.  The Court appointed a special master to hear the case and determine any factual issues.  It is this trial before the special master, Stanford Law School Professor Barton Thompson, that began this week and it scheduled to run at least through November 21, 2013.  [Read article here.]

 

3.  An Okmulgee, Oklahoma purebred cattle operation recently suffered the theft of over $100,000 in cattle.  According to an Oklahoma Special Ranger, cattle theft is common in Oklahoma and is viewed as a low risk, high reward crime.  [Read article here.]

4.  Criminal charges have been filed against the owners of a Colorado cantaloupe farm after a listeria epidemic traced to the farm killed 33 people in 2011.  The owners were charged with 6 counts of misdemeanor introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce.  The owners have both plead not guilty and trial is currently set for December 2, 2013.  Several civil lawsuits brought by families of those people who were killed are also pending.  [Read article here.]

 

5.  A Pennsylvania state legislator has introduced a bill that would enact an open-ended moratorium on fracking in the state.  The moratorium would be enacted to allow a 7 person committee to investigate the environmental, social, and economic impacts of fracking.  If passed, the bill would prohibit the issuance of any  new permits in Pennsylvania, but would allow the nearly 14,000 currently existing permits–many of which are for drilling in the Marcellus Shale region–to be grandfathered in and continue production.  As noted by the bill’s sponsor, New York currently has a similar, but temporary, moratorium in place.  [Read article here.]

 

6.  Lastly, there is a projection going on called “Why I Farm” where farmers from across the country are submitting short videos answering the question, “Why do you farm?”  If you have some time, there are some really great videos that have been posted.  [View videos here.]

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