April 8, 2016 Weekly Round Up

It has been a busy week around here!  On Monday, I was a co-presenter on a Right to farm webinar.  On Tuesday, I offered a water law webinar for Texas extension agents.  On Thursday night, I spoke on agricultural law hot topics to a great group in Denton.  And, finally, today I am giving three presentations at the Texas & Southwest Cattle Raisers Convention in Ft. Worth.  To all of you new faces joining the blog, welcome!

* Right to farm webinar recording available.  If you missed the right to farm webinar on Monday, don’t fret!  A recording of the webinar is available here.  First, Ashley Ellixson offered an overview of right to farm statutes.  Next (after solving some major technical difficulties!), I discussed recent litigation and legislation related to right to farm statutes.  Then, our fearless leader, Paul Goeringer, wrapped things up by looking at recent right to farm constitutional amendments.  Finally, we had about 15 minutes worth of great questions from the audience.

* Texas Supreme Court will again consider eminent domain case.  An important eminent domain case will again find its way to the Texas Supreme Court.  Texas Rice Land Partners v. Denbury Green Pipeline-Texas addresses the level of evidence and timing of proof that must be offered in order for a CO2 pipeline to be considered a common carrier.  Previously, the Texas Supreme Court held that “merely registering as a common carrier does not conclusively convey the extraordinary power of eminent domain or bar landowners from contesting in court whether a planned pipeline meets the statutory common carrier requirements.” [Read prior blog post here.]  Based on that ruling, the case was sent back to the lower court to allow the pipeline company to offer evidence it was, in fact, a common carrier.  The company offered two contracts and sought summary judgment.  The landowners argued that these contracts were not sufficient evidence as they were both entered into after the pipeline was built, and one negotiation began because of the Supreme Court’s ruling.  The Beaumont Court of Appeals denied the motion for summary judgment, finding that the company had not proven itself a common carrier.  The company appealed, and the Texas Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case. [Read article here.]

pipeline

* EPA funds anti-agriculture billboard.  An anti-agriculture billboard in Washington State has apparently been funded in part by the Environmental Protection Agency, potentially violating lobbying rules.  You may remember last year when the EPA was found to have violated rules in its campaign in favor of the new “Waters of the United States” definition.  Numerous agricultural groups are understandably upset, feeling that this is yet another in a long line of examples of the EPA fighting against those who grow the food and fiber for the United States. [Read article here.]

* Solar lease boom in New York.  An article recently published discusses the current boom in companies seeking solar leases from farmers and ranchers in New York state.  A similar boom has been occurring for several years in North Carolina.  Interestingly, I’ve gotten several calls in the last few months from Texas landowners who have been approached by solar developers.  I’m currently working on a blog post discussing solar leasing and offering some key negotiation points for landowners to consider.  As with any lease, I highly recommend hiring an attorney to review before signing a solar lease agreement.  [Read article here.]

*Farm protection laws (aka “ag gag” statutes) erode trust in farmers and ranchers.  Modern Farmer published an article this week raising concern over the impact of farm protection laws, also known as “ag gag” statutes, and the impact they have on public perception of ag.  A study recently found that consumers who find out about these types of laws–which generally prohibit undercover videography on ag operations–are likely to distrust the ag industry as a result.  This is an important issue to consider when looking for ways to protect ag operations while still retaining consumer trust.  [Read article here.]

*SCOTUS Blog offers great summary of Hawkes case oral argument.  As I mentioned last week, the United States Supreme Court held oral argument in the Hawkes Clean Water Act case, addressing whether a jurisdictional determination is immediately appealable by a landowner.  [To read more about the details of the case, click here.]  The folks over at SCOTUS Blog have prepared a great summary of the oral argument.  [Read summary here.]

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