May 9, 2014 Weekly Round Up

Things continue to be busy around here with lots of programs going on.  Last week, I spoke on grazing leases and the Texas Right to Farm Act at an Agribusiness 101 session for Travis and Bastrop Counties in Austin.  Thank you to County Extension Agents Julie Ansley and Rachel Bauer for the invitation!  Last Friday, I made the drive to Nacogdoches to speak on basic estate planning at a Value of Land Seminar hosted by the Nacogdoches and Angelina County Extension Offices.  Jamie Sugg and Cary Sims did a great job putting this program together and I enjoyed the chance to speak.  Finally, this week I was able to present to a group of 28 women at the Annie’s Project in Georgetown.  Agrilife Extension District Economist Jason Johnson does an outstanding with this program, designed to educate farm and ranch women.  These ladies had about two hours worth of great questions and it was a pleasure to attend and visit with them.

To all of you new followers from these presentations, welcome!

Here are a few ag law stories in the news.

*  Texas Rancher Questions “Wiggle Room” for Transmission Lines.  A Texas rancher is fighting against the “wiggle room” that a transmission line company says it is afforded in determining where to place its line.  The transmission line at issue, part of the CREZ initiative, will connect wind power production in west Texas with end-users in Dallas.  The project received approval for their route–which goes through Mr. Vinson’s property– from the Public Utility Commission.  The company, however, now seeks to place the line approximately 150 feet from the original mapped location, claiming that they have the authority to slightly deviate from the mapped location.  This dispute has raised an interesting question of whether transmission line companies can modify the location of the lines after receiving PUC approval and after compensating landowners for the planned route.  After an administrative law judge sided with the company and against Mr. Vinson, he appealed to the Public Utility Commission.  Next month, the PUC will consider this issue pursuant to a complaint filed by Mr. Vinson.  [Read article here.]

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* Oil and Gas Boom Leads To Increase in Traffic Accidents.  Throughout the country from West Virginia to Texas, areas that are part of the country’s oil boom are also dealing with increased numbers of traffic fatalities.  According to this article, in Texas, traffic fatalities were up 18% in a twenty-one county area where drilling has expanded, while in the rest of the state, fatalities are down 20%.  Numerous factors contribute to this issue including increased traffic, additional heavy equipment on the roads, and overwhelming growth in traffic for which local infrastructure is inadequate.  [Read article here.]

* Article Explains Importance of Estate Plan Regardless of Wealth.  A recent Dallas Morning News article explained the importance of estate plans even for those of us without large bank accounts.  As the article explains, it is important for everyone to think through various aspects of an estate plan including bequeathing assets, but also things like granting powers of attorney for financial and healthcare decisions, considering drafting living wills and do not resuscitate orders, and preparing a list of assets.  [Read article here.]

* Highlights from Census of Agriculture.  Southeast Farm Press ran an article pointing out some highlights from the recently released 2012 Census of Agriculture.  These include an increase in the number of beginning farmers, statistics showing that 30% of US farms are owned by women, and that more young farmers list farming as their primary occupation.  [Read article here.]

*  Register Now for Texas Agricultural Law Course!  I was thrilled to be asked to serve on the planning committee for the 8th Annual John Huffaker Agricultural Law Course, which will be held in Lubbock on May 29 and 30.  It will be a great course with a variety of topics including the Farm Bill, legal issues facing the Texas wine industry, succession planning, animal rights law, the impact of immigration law on farmers and ranchers, an overview of the Endangered Species Act, water law updates,  mineral leasing tips, and more.  I’m excited to be attending, hope to see you there!  For information on registration, click here.

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