April 25, 2014 Weekly Round Up

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

This week I was able to attend two county meetings and visit with folks about agricultural leases, oil and gas leasing, and pipeline easement negotiations.  Thanks to County Extension Agents Cooper Terrill in Falls County and Aaron Low in Cherokee County for the invitation and for putting together two great programs.  Welcome to the new blog readers who attended these meetings!

There was a lot of ag law action going on across Texas this week.  Here are a few of the headlines.

*  TCEQ Votes To Appoint Watermaster for Lower Brazos Basin.  Last week, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality voted to appoint a watermaster for the lower Brazos river.  The watermaster will oversee withdrawals from the river and require frequent reporting for users.  This decision came about after several years of drought and an ongoing lawsuit brought by farmers holding irrigation permits against the TCEQ who curtailed water rights but allowed exceptions for junior municipalities and power generating plants.  [Read article here.]

Texas Rice Farmers Turn to Groundwater and Will Likely Face Higher Prices for Surface Water in the Future.  After the LCRA cut off water to rice farmers for irrigation, some farmers–about 20%–are turning to groundwater in order to irrigate their crops.  [Listen to audio story here.]  Additionally, even if surface water becomes available from the LCRA, it may come at a much higher price.  The LCRA has proposed to increase water rates by 16% for cities and power plants and as much as 91% for some farmers, a move criticized by many in the area.  [Read article here.]

*  Drought Causes Potential Litigation Over Endangered Species Act.  The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting article this week discussing how the drought across the west has caused controversy related to the Endangered Species Act.  The article discusses ongoing controversies in Texas involving litigation over whooping cranes , New Mexico and Colorado involving the threat of lawsuit over the silvery minnow, and California court decision limiting irrigation water to protect a threatened fish.  [Read article here.]

*  Texas A&M Agriculture Food and Policy Center Developing Farm Bill Decision Aid.  This week, Southwest Farm Press ran an article discussing the decision aid currently being developed by the Texas A&M Food and Policy Center.  When complete, the decision aid will help producers to compare various scenarios to determine which farm program options should be the most beneficial for their operations.  [Read article here.]

cotton jennifer

*  Water Lecture Series to Feature Professor Mike Young.  The Texas A&M University Law School will be hosting Professor Mike Young as part of its Water Lecture Series.  Professor Young will discuss Australian water law and specifically how that country changed fro the entitlement and allocation approach to water rights and the challenges and benefits from that change.  Professor Young  will speak on Friday, April 25, 2014, at the Texas A&M Law School in Ft. Worth and on Monday, April 28, 2014,  here on campus at Texas A&M University in College Station.  [For more information, click here.]

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