December 18, 2015 Weekly Round Up

We are exactly one week from Christmas!  I hope you all are more prepared for the holiday than I am at this point!  Here are some ag law stories making news this week.

*EPA violated the law by pushing “WOTUS” rule on social media.  The Government Accountability Office found this week that the EPA violated federal law in its social media campaign in favor of its “Waters of the United States” rule.  Government agencies are certainly permitted to use social media in order to provide information, but may not use it as a forum for propaganda.  The GAO report points out two specific violations.  The first, involving a Thunderclap message stating that “I support the EPA’s efforts to protect clean water for my health, my family, and my community” was problematic because as it traveled around the internet people would not know it had been started by the EPA, making this covert propoganda.  The second, a blog post including a like button to an advocacy group and encouraging the public to “take action” and “tell Congress to stop interfering with your right to clean water” called people to action in support of the EPA. Although experts to not believe the findings will result in penalties to the EPA, they certainly offer fodder for those challenging the rule in court and in Congress.  [Read article here.]

* USDA FSA Releases new “actively engaged” rule. The 2014 Farm Bill required the USDA to draft a rule to ensure that farm payments are made only to actively engaged in the operation.  This week, the final rule was released.  The rule seeks to avoid the situation where farms owned by general partnerships or joint ventures could add managers to obtain additional federal payments, despite those managers having no involvement in the operation.  The new rule, which importantly exempts family farm operations, will apply to farms with more than one farm manager and will require documentation to show that all managers are indeed actively engaged in the operation in order to receive payments.  [Read article here.]

Texas A&M Agrilife Photo by Kay Ledbetter

* Idaho has filed a notice of appeal in “ag gag” case.  The State of Idaho has appealed the federal district court decision finding the state’s “ag gag” law unconstitutional.  The appeal has been filed with the United States Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco.  [Read article here.]

* FAA will begin drone registration tomorrow.  The Federal Aviation Administration will required that drones be registered in order to make identification and education of owners easier.  Drone owners must register on the FAA website and will be given an identification number, which must be affixed on the drone itself.  The may be completed online (click here) registration fee of $5 will be waived for the first month, between December 21, 2015 and January 20, 2016.  Persons already have a drone must register by February 19, 2016.  Those receiving drones in the future must register before their first outdoor flight.  [Read FAA press release here and article here.]

* Texas farmer may challenge Endangered Species Act.  You may remember from this prior blog post that a group of Utah landowners challenged the application of the Endangered Species Act to a purely intrastate species.  Those landowners succeeded at the trial court level, but their case is currently on appeal at the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.  A Central Texas landowner is preparing to make a similar argument.  John Yearwood, a Williamson County landowner owns property on which the Bone Cave harvestman, a tiny, blind bug, is found.  The bug is protected under the Endangered Species Act.  But Yearwood has joined together with the Center for the American Future and the Texas Public Policy Foundation and attends to file suit in federal court making the same argument as the landowners from Utah.  [Read article here.]


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