This week I spoke to a great group in Sweetwater about leases and estate planning. Welcome to those of you joining from that meeting!
There has been so much ag law news happening in the last couple of weeks that my head is still spinning. Here are the highlights.
* Jury verdict for Kansas farmers in first Syngenta Viptera/Duracade class action trial. A Kansas jury awarded nearly $218 million to Kansas farmers in this much-watched class action suit, finding that Syngenta was negligent. Syngenta has already said it plans to appeal. I wrote a detailed blog post about the verdict here. Going forward, there are individual cases in Minnesota set for trial in July and I understand that the next class action case will likely go early next year. For those of you interested in this issue, I am planning on having class counsel appear on my Ag Law in the Field Podcast in the next month or so, so be on the lookout for that.
*EPA will rescind 2015 Waters of the United States (“WOTUS”) rule. On Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced it would be taking the first step to rescind the definition of WOTUS as published in the Federal Register in 2015 and to re-codify the definition of WOTUS “which currently governs administration of the Clean Water Act.” Essentially, it appears that the EPA intends to codify the approach taken prior to the WOTUS rule being passed. Of course, as many remember, there was a great deal of uncertainty prior to the 2015 WOTUS Rule, leading to significant litigation. The EPA has released its “pre-publication version” of the proposed rule defining Waters of the United Sates, which will be published in the Federal Register soon. [Read pre-publication version here.] After publication, there will be a 30 day notice period for interested parties to submit comments about the new proposed rule. [Read article here.] I’ll have a more detailed analysis of the new version of the rule upon its publication in the Federal Register.
*ABC settles with BPI in “pink slime” defamation suit. BPI filed suit against ABC news seeking $5 million in damages after ABC news aired stories in 2012 referring to lean, finely textured beef product as “pink slime.” BPI claimed that that coverage was defamatory and severely damaged their business. The trial in this case began earlier this month and the settlement came before ABC put on its defense. Terms of the settlement have not been disclosed. [Read article here.]
*US Supreme Court issues decision in Murr v. Wisconsin regulatory takings case. You may remember from this prior blog post that the US Supreme Court heard argument in a case out of Wisconsin regarding a landowner claiming a regulatory taking of his property. The Supreme Court held that their two lots constituted one parcel for purposes of regulatory takings analysis, and that no taking occurred based on the facts in this case. I’ll have a more detailed blog post on this decision next week. [Read full opinion here.]
* Federal District Judge affirms magistrate’s opinion in Montana Beef Checkoff litigation. As we discussed in this prior post, a Federal Magistrate recommended that the Federal District Judge deny a motion to dismiss and issue an injunction prohibiting the Montana Beef COuncil from using checkoff dollars to support promotional campaigns unless they obtain affirmative permission from the cattle producers paying the assessment. The District Judge did just that. The lawsuit will now proceed and the plaintiffs’ First Amendment claims will move forward. [Read article here.]
* “All I Ever Wanted To Be Was a Soldier” now available. Not ag law related, but I just finished helping my uncle write a book about his tour of duty in Vietnam back in 1969-1970. It has been a project in the works for over 5 years, and we are quite proud to have it completed! [View book info here.]