Welcome to our first weekly round up of the new year! There are lots of ag law stories making news this week.
*New York Bans Fracking. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that he will ban fracking in the state this year. A moritorium on the practice has been in place since 2008 and several local fracking bans are already in place. With this ban, New York will join Vermont as the only states banning fracking, but will be the first ban in a state with significant oil and gas resources. In December, the Department of Health conduced an investigation and recommended that fracking not be allowed until information was available to evaluate potential public health risks. As has been seen with other fracking bans, including that passed by Denton, TX in November, litigation is likely to come from mineral owners (many of whom are southern New York farmers who previously signed oil and gas leases) and the oil an gas industry. [Read article here.]
*Federal Court Finds Foie Gras Ban Pre-Empted By Federal Law. A Federal District Court in California has found that a ban on foie gras, a dish made by force feeding birds with a tube, is pre-empted by federal law. The ban, supported by animal rights groups, went into effect in 2012. The judge found that the ban was preempted by the federal Poultry Product Inspection Act, which prohibits states from passing labeling, packaging, or ingredient requirements different than those in the Act. The Court agreed with the challengers, finding that the ban was on an “ingredient” and was not permitted. This case could also be important to a pending legal challenge of another California law, one banning the sale of eggs from chickens grown in battery cages in the state borders. [Read opinion here.]
* China Lifts Ban on Syngenta Corn Variety. Chinese officials have announced approval for importing MIR 162, a genetically modified corn trait marketed by Syngenta. Syngenta has been seeking approval from the Chinese since 2010 and began selling the corn seed in the US prior to gaining this approval. You may recall from this post, China rejected shipments of US corn due to the presence of MIR 162, leading to numerous lawsuits against Syngenta. [Read article here.]
* Can Colorado Marijuana Farmers Obtain a Water Right? Colorado water authorities are facing an interesting dilemma–can water rights be granted to marijuana farmers? Colorado is a prior appropriation state, meaning that anyone seeking to use water for irrigation must obtain a permit from the state. State law allows for permits to be issued for those who will put water to a beneficial use, and in order to be a beneficial use, the use must be lawfully made. Currently, High Valley Farms has a permit pending seeking water to cultivate marijuana, which is legal under Colorado law. The question becomes complex, however, because marijuana is still illegal under federal law. The state has requested additional information–asking the applicant to explain how the rights may be granted in light of the beneficial use definition requiring the use be lawfully made. A conference will be held on January 13, where the “water referree” in charge of permit consideration will likely review additional documents, hear arguments, and rule on the application. [Read article here.]
* Five Will Drafting Tips. ABC News recently published an article offering five tops for drafting a will. The tips include (1) ensuring that you understand the process to ensure that the will is legally valid; (2) working with an attorney; (3) selecting witnesses and executors carefully; (4) including the small stuff; and (5) telling someone where your estate planing documents are located. Great tips to keep in mind! [Read article here.]