Here are some of the agricultural law stories in the news this week.
* NM Supreme Court Holds Agricultural Exemption to Workers Compensation Law Unconstitutional. Last week, the New Mexico Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals holding that an exemption excluding farm and ranch laborers from mandatory workers compensation coverage was unconstitutional. [Read full opinion here.] I previously wrote a blog post explaining this issue and outlining the Court of Appeals opinion. To read that, click here. Although the Court agreed that the provision was unconstitutional, it disagreed with the Court of Appeals with regard to retroactive application. Instead, the Court held that their holding would apply only to injuries occurring after the Court’s mandate is issued in this case and to the two injured employees who filed this case. Justice Nakamura filed a lengthy, critical dissent in the case, reasoning that it should be the province of the Legislature to make this type of decision. Further, she would have held that the Legislature had a rational basis for creating the exclusion and found it to be constitutional. This decision leaves plaintiffs’ counsel celebrating and members of the agricultural community concerned about yet another cost in a time of extremely low commodity prices. [Read article here.]
* FAA Passes Final Drone Rules. The FAA has published their final drone rules, which will allow for commercial use of drones weighing less than 55 pounds in the United States. The rules will go into effect at the end of August. [View FAA press release here.] The rules and a summary of the rules may be found on the FAA website. Additionally, Delta Farm Press ran an interesting article discussing the potential implications of the new rules on aerial spray application for agriculture. [View article here.]
* Vermont GMO Labeling Law Is Now In Effect. As of July 1, the Vermont GMO labeling law is in effect. To review the text of the law, click here. Essentially, the law requires foods made with GMO’s to include a label stating that they are (or may be) produced with genetic engineering. A lawsuit brought by several plaintiffs, including the Grocery Manufacturers Association, remains pending on appeal after a trial court verdict favoring the State. For now, all eyes are on the US Congress to see if a federal labeling law will be passed that would pre-empt Vermont’s state law. [Read article here.]
* Estate Planning Checklist. I ran across an article this week listing out steps that folks should consider when getting an estate plan together. The frequently thought of items are there of course–a will, power of attorney, living will–but this checklist includes other important items including a care plan for pets and animals, dealing with digital estates, and having list of assets. [Read article here.]
* We’ve Been Off the Farm Too Long. This week, I read a great article posted on Facebook titled “America’s Greatest Problem: We’ve Been Off the Farm Too Long.” I thought it was great and, as a farm kid myself, I couldn’t agree more! [Read article here.]