January 17, 2014 Weekly Round Up

*This article is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.*
It has been a busy week for agricultural law-related stories.  Here are a few of the headlines making news this week.
*  Texas Supreme Court Orders TransCanada Response to Appeal.   The Texas Supreme Court has ordered TransCanada to respond for a petition for review filed by Texas landowner Julia Trigg Crawford.  Trigg Crawford has appealed the trial court decision (affirmed by the appellate court) challenging the ability of TransCanada to use the power of eminent domain to take a portion of her 600 acre family farm near Pairs, TX, for the Keystone XL pipeline.  Importantly, and contrary to what some reports have claimed, the Supreme Court has issued no decision in the case, but has merely requested the TransCanada respond to Ms. Trigg Crawford’s request that the Supreme Court hear her appeal.   [Read article here.]
* Arizona Supreme Court Rules Against Environmental Groups.  The Arizona Supreme Court issued a ruling against environmental groups claiming a constitutional right to obtain grazing leases on state land when they were the lowest bidder.  The Court, in affirming the decision of the appellate court, did not go into additional rationale for its decision.  The controversy arose when WildEarth Guardians offered to pay $.40 per acre more than ranchers Galyn and Roxanne Knight.  The Land Department awarded the lease to the Knights.  According to attorney Tim Hogan, the Land Department never opened WildEarth Guardian’s bid, finding instead that ranchers would be better land stewards.  [Read article here.]
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*  New York City Mayor-Elect Seeks To Ban Horse Carriages.  Bill de Blasio, the mayor-elect of New York City, has announced that he intends to ban horse-drawn carriages, claiming that they are inhumane.  De Blasio plans to replace the horse-drawn carriages with antique cars.  The proposed law will have to be approved by the City Council before going into effect.  Carriage drivers have vowed to fight this measure.  [Read articles here and  here.]

*  Tyson Announces Changes for Pork Producers.  On day after Smithfield announced changes regarding the use of gestation crates, Tyson Foods, the second largest pork producer in the US, also announced sweeping changes for producers.  These changes include an expansion of third-party audits, use of video monitoring to decrease biosecurity risks, the end of utilizing blunt force trauma to euthanize hogs, the development and use of pain mitigation during tail docking and castration, and improved housing systems.  [Read article here.]

* Primus Labs Moves for Dismissal in Jensen Farms Case.  As we have previously reported on this blog, Jensen Farms, the cantaloupe operation where listeria contaminated the product causing several deaths and illnesses across the country, filed suit against PrimusLabs, the third party auditor that gave the farm a passing grade just weeks before the outbreak.  The case was subsequently signed over to the victims, meaning any recovery would go to them, rather than to Jensen Farms.  Primus Farms has now filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, placing fault on the Jensen brothers and their distributer, rather than on the audit company.  [Read article here.]

*  New Mexico Judge Expected to Rule on Horse Slaughter Plant Today.  After holding a contentious, day-long hearing on Monday, Santa Fe District Court Judge Matthew Wilson is expected to rule today whether Valley Meat Co. of Roswell, NM may go forward with horse slaughter operations.  [Read article here.]

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