I hope you all had a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day! Here are a few of the ag law stories making news this week.
* Senate rejects voluntary GMO labeling bill. On Wednesday, the US Senate rejected a bill that would have created a voluntary GMO labeling system and would have prohibited states from imposing mandatory labeling requirements. Proponents of the bill claim that GMOs are safe and that labeling should not be mandatory as it would increase food prices. Further, they argue that allowing states to pass different labeling requirements will lead to a patchwork of laws and impose a huge burden on manufacturers trying to comply with them all. The bill’s opponents site the public’s right to know what is in their food as support for rejecting this bill. [Read article here.]
* Final of five nuisance suits against Indiana swine farms dismissed. The last of five lawsuits filed in east central Indiana has been dismissed. The nuisance lawsuits were filed by neighbors of several swine farms in the area owned by Maxwell Farms. All plaintiffs were represented by the same counsel. This final suit was dismissed after the Court granted summary judgment, relying on the state’s Right to Farm Act. The other four suits met similar results. [Read article here.]
* Open records lawsuit filed in San Antonio Water Systems pipeline project. We have talked numerous times about the pipeline project planned to transport water pumped from rural Burleson and Milam Counties to San Antonio. [Read prior blog here.] The water supplier, Abengoa Vista Ridge, created the Centeral Texas Regional Water Supply Corporation (CTRWSC) in 2014 to obtain pipeline easements from landowners along the pipeline route. An environmental group filed an open records request against the CTRWSC seeking meeting minutes, correspondence, and records related to pump station locations and right-of-way negotiations with landowners. The group is relying on the portion of the Texas open records act that applies to “the governing body o fa nonprofit corporation…that provides a water supply or wastewater service, or both” and is exempt from property taxes. The CTRWSC has refused to provide records, arguing that the act does not apply to them because they have yet to file their nonprofit paperwork and have no assets on which property taxes have been exempted. [Read article here.]
* Eagle Ford shale mineral owners sue Chespeake Energy claiming royalty underpayments. Mineral owners in the Eagle Ford shale have filed numerous lawsuits against producer Chssapeake Energy Corp. alleging underpayment of royalties. The largest lawsuit, filed by the Dilworth family related to numerous ranches covering nearly 16,000 acres in the heart of the Eagle Ford, alleges that Chespeake violated specific lease terms by deducting post-production costs, despite lease language disallowing these deductions. [Read article here.]
* Interesting article on Oklahoma Right to Farm Constitutional Amendment. Oklahoma voters will be considering a Constitutional amendment, known as the “Right to Farm” amendment. The amendment is an attempt to prevent bills seeking to limit or prohibit certain agricultural production activities. The language is as follows: “The legislature shall pass no law that abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural technology and livestock production and ranching practices without a compelling state interest.” This article discusses arguments and issues on both sides of the proposed amendment. [Read article here.]
* Texas motion granted to join lawsuit against BLM regarding land along Red River. The ongoing battle between north Texas landowners and the Bureau of Land Management over property ownership of lands along the Red River continues in Court, and now the State of Texas has joined in the fight. The federal trial court has granted Texas’ motion to intervene in the lawsuit. The suit involves 90,000 acres of land along the River, which the landowners and BLM each assert ownership to. [Read article here.]