Happy Friday! Last week I was in Washington, DC speaking at the USDA Outlook Forum. It was a great conference and I enjoyed the opportunity to participate! A special thank you to Shayle Shagam and David Anderson for inviting me to speak. Here are a few ag law stories in the news this week.
* Denton Fracking Cases With Both Be Heard in Denton County. After Denton voters passed a ban on fracking within city limits last November, two lawsuits were filed challenging the ban. The Texas Oil and Gas Association filed suit in Denton County, and the Texas General Land Office filed suit in Travis County. Earlier this week, the GLO case was transferred to Denton County. Because the GLO seeks an injunction, the rules of civil procedure provide that proper venue is the county in which the injunction will be sought. This means that both cases will be heard in the same court, and there is at least a possibility of the cases being consolidated. [Read article here.]
* US Supreme Court Rules for Kansas in Water Suit Against Nebraska. The United States Supreme Court found in favor of Kansas this week in a water dispute regarding allocation of water from the Republican River. [Read full opinion here.] A 1943 Compact allocates 49% to Nebraska, 40% to Kansas, and 11% to Colorado. Kansas sought $80 million, alleging that Nebraska took more than its fair share. The Court agreed, but awarded only $5.5 million. [Read article here.]
* Ohio Supreme Court Rules Local Governments Cannot Regulate Fracking. Also on the fracking front, the Ohio Supreme Court issued a 4-3 opinion last week ruling that local governments in the state are pre-empted from regulating fracking. [Read full opinion here.] Instead, that authority rests with the state. The court reasoned that the Department of Natural Resources has “exclusive authority” over regulation of oil and gas production. [Read article here.]
* Syngenta Considers Counterclaims Against Farmers. As you read about previously, farmers and agribusinesses from several states filed suit against Syngenta over MIR 162 corn seed, which caused trade issues with China last year. Syngenta is reportedly considering filing counter claims against the farmers and agribusinesses. [Read article here.] Additionally, the University of Illinois published an interesting article this week comparing the farmers’ claims against Syngenta to prior class action suits that resulted in multi million dollar settlements involving rice. Although there are factual distinctions, the cases are quite similar. It is an interesting read. [Read article here.]
* Proposed Federal Dietary Guidelines Propose Less Red Meat, Anger Ranchers. A panel of nutrition experts has filed a 571 page report will be used by the USDA to update federal dietary guidelines. The report recommends that Americans eat less red meat, in part due to alleged environmental concerns. [Read article here.] Public comment is currently being accepted on the report through April 8, 2015. To comment, click here.
* Missouri Right to Farm Constitutional Amendment Challenge Heard by Missouri Supreme Court. The legality of the Missouri Right to Farm Constitutional Amendment, passed earlier this year and described in detail in this prior blog post, was argued before the state’s Supreme Court. Challengers claim that the ballot language was confusing to voters because although the ballot described the amendment as protecting “Missouri citizens,” the actual amendment applies equally to out of state citizens and corporations. The Supreme Court will likely take several months to issue a decision. [Read article here.]