January 10, 2014 Weekly Round Up

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

Last Friday I was able to speak at the Central Texas Cow/Calf Clinic at the Milano Livestock Exchange.  It was a great crowd and I enjoyed the chance to visit with them about the importance of written leases.  As a country girl myself with fond memories of going to the sale barn with my dad, I have to say that this was my favorite presentation location so far.  Welcome to the new readers from that presentation!


Here are a few of the ag law stories in the news this week.

1.  Texas Railroad Commission To Hire Seismologist To Investigate Connection Between Oil and Gas Production and Earthquakes.  [Read article here.]

2.  Smithfield Encourages Phasing out Gestation Crates.  Smithfield Foods, Inc., the world’s largest pork purchaser, has announced it is requesting independent farmers who hold Smithfield contracts to replace gestational crates for group farrowing houses.  NPR reports that Smithfield has contracts with approximately 1,200 independent farms in 12 states.  Smithfield requests that the producers make the transition by 2022 and offers a sliding scale of incentives for producers who convert before that time.  Although the request is not mandatory, Smithfield officials say that if producers chose not to comply, future contract extensions are “less likely.”  This type of conversion was previously imposed for all Smithfield-owned farms in 2007 to be implemented by 2017.  [Read press release here.]

3.  6 Chinese National Charged with Stealing Corn Seed.  Charges of stealing trade secrets have been filed in federal court in Iowa against 6 Chinese nationals who allegedly stole corn seed from U.S. companies to benefit their own Chinese-based seed companies.  Authorities claim that the defendants were seen in corn fields digging up recently planted seeds and stealing ears of corn from the fields in production from April 2011 to December 2012.  [Read article here.]

4.  NM Environment Department Hearing Officer Recommends Denying Permit to Horse Slaughter Plant.  On Tuesday, a state environmental hearing officer suggested that Valley Meat Co. be denied its requested permit for sewage disposal.  Valley Meat has the opportunity to respond to the recommendation, at which time the New Mexico Environment Secretary, Ryan Flynn, will decide whether to grant the permit.  [Read article here.]  Meanwhile, a proposed horse slaughter plant in Missouri should know by January 27, 2014, if the Department of Natural Resources will approve its request to allow horse slaughter under its meat processing permit.  [Read article here.]

5.  HSUS Makes Issue of Tail Docking in Wisconsin.  The Humane Society of the United States has written a letter to the Wisconsin Farm Bureau urging that the Farm Bureau side with HSUS in opposing tail docking for dairy cows.  HSUS argues that tail docking causes “serious animal welfare problems” including “distress, pain, and increased fly attacks.”  [Read letter here.]  In response, the Wisconsin Farm Bureau issued a statement that it supports farmers and veterinarians determining the appropriate animal husbandry practices for their farm.  The statement went on to say that Farm Bureau believes whether to dock tails “should be a decision between farmers and their veterinarians, and not be a legislative mandate prompted by an animal rights group whose end goal is to eliminate animal agriculture.”  [Read statement here.]

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