It has been quite a busy few weeks around here, I apologize for the lack of round up posts. Towards the end of March, I did an online presentation for folks out in Culberson County and then made my way to two great conferences, the Four States Forage Conference in Texarkana and the Texas & Southwest Cattle Raisers Association Convention in San Antonio. So far in April, I’ve been burning up the road and made trips to an extension program in Snyder and a wonderful inaugural Women in Ag program in Brownfield, along with a guest lecture in a graduate school class at West Texas A&M University. This week, I’ve made my way to Kerrville and just finished speaking at the 4th Annual Hill Country Landowner’s Program. To all of you who I’ve had the pleasure of presenting to, welcome to the blog!
Here are some of the ag law stories in the news.
* BLM admits erroneous surveys, suspends actions along Red River. The Bureau of Land Management has admitted that its survey of land along the Red River to determine whether the land was owned by private landowners or the federal government was inaccurate. The surveys failed to take into consideration the movement of the river. Numerous landowners and landowner groups filed suit against the BLM over these surveys. As the BLM explained in a letter to landowners, “Having reviewed the deposition testimony and other new information, the BLM believes the survey methodology used was in error and may have caused errors in identifying the gradient boundary.” Meanwhile, there is legislative action pending that would require the BLM to undertake certain surveying techniques. The “Red River Gradient Boundary Survey Act,” has passed the House, but has not yet been considered by the Senate. [Read article here.]
*Farm groups settle Freedom of Information Act lawsuit with Environmental Protection Agency. An ongoing lawsuit regarding whether the EPA may release personal information about farmers, such as family names, phone numbers, GPS coordinates, etc., has been settled. Newly-appointed EPA Secretary, Scott Pruitt signed an agreement with plaintiffs including the American Farm Bureau and the National Pork Producers Council to avoid further litigation. Under the agreement, the EPA agrees that when producing certain records, it will redact this type of personal information, which is exempt from disclosure under the FOIA. EPA will also train its employees on this exemption. [View Settlement here and read article here.]
* Numerous US dairy farmers left without milk buyers. In the last couple of weeks, numerous dairy farmers in the US have found themselves suddenly without a buyer for their milk. Some of the milk buyers, including Grassland Dairy Products, sent letters to their suppliers telling them that they could not longer take their milk supplies after the end of the months. Grassland’s letter claimed that the reason for this was Canada beginning a program offering incentives to Canadian processors to buy domestic supplies of ultrafiltered milk. The dairy industry argues that the Canadian incentive violates trade agreements between the US and Canada and have asked President Trump to step in. Preside the Trump made a statement that his administration will work with Canada to resolve this issue. Canada argues that it is not their incentive causing the problem, but an oversupply of milk produced in the United States. Regardless, there are numerous dairy farms in the US facing an uncertain future at this point. [Read articles here and here.]
* Study finds most Americans still without an estate plan. A recent study found that over half of Americans–52%–have no estate plan. And those who do have a plan in place have not talked to their family about the plan. Less than 30% of those surveyed had engaged in estate planning discussions with their parents. Only 1/3 of respondents said that their heirs were aware of the location of estate planning documents like wills or powers of attorney. [Read article here.] Numbers like this make me cringe. I cannot overstate how important it is, especially for farm and ranch families, to take the time to prepare an estate plan and a business succession plan if operations are to survive a death.