January 13, 2017 Weekly Round Up

Hello!  I am excited to be back in the saddle with Weekly Round Up posts.  I appreciate all of your kind words and well wishes while I was off on maternity leave to welcome home our daughter, Harper.

There is sure no shortage of ag law news to report on this week.  Here are some of the big stories.

Texas producers reject Indemnity Fund assessment.  The Texas Department of Agriculture announced that recent voting on whether to create an assessment on grain sales to fund a sort of mandatory self-insurance program for producers to help offset the risk when selling grain has failed.  The votes were overwhelmingly against the measure, 655 against and 148 in favor.    [Read article here.]


* Special Master orders mediation in Florida v. Georgia water law case.  The Special Master presiding over the United States Supreme Court case pitting Georgia and Florida at odds over water use has encouraged the parties to settle their dispute.  This comes after a month-long trial, but before the Special Master issues his recommendation to the court on what its ruling should be in the case. [For more background, click here.] The dispute is over how much water Georgia can withdraw from the Chattahoochee River and Lake Lanier.  At the most basic level, Florida claims that Georgia is taking more than its fair share of water from the river.  [Read article here.]

* USDA to allow early termination of some CRP contracts to allow transfer to the next generation.  Landowners enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (“CRP”) may, in some circumstances, have the ability to terminate their contracts early and avoid the normal penalties that would occur with such termination.  The USDA has announced an early termination program for landowners seeking to transfer ownership of their CRP contracted land to a younger farmer or rancher.  [Read article here.]

* Abandoned wells causing major issues across Texas.  The Texas Tribune ran an article recently looking at the issue of abandoned oil and gas wells.  These wells are numerous and widespread across the state, and can pose significant problems for landowners and conservation districts alike.  [Read article here.]

*Estate tax limit increases to $5.49 million per person in 2017.  With the new year, the exemption amount for the federal estate tax has again increased for inflation and is now $5.45 million per person.  This means that if a person’s estate is valued at less than $5.45 million, they will not owe federal estate taxes at the time of their death.  For estates larger than that amount, any estate value over the limit will be taxed at a 40% rate.  [Read more about federal estate taxes here.]



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