July 6, 2018 Weekly Round Up

I hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable Independence Day!  My family celebrated with a small town parade here in the Texas Panhandle, which our two little ones really enjoyed!

Despite the day off, it has been a busy news week for agricultural law.

*Concho River Watermaster warns permit holders that curtailments may occur.  The Concho Watermaster sent letters to water rights holders this week that if drought conditions persist and a senior water rights holder makes a priority call, curtailment could occur.  Further, the letter requires receiving approval prior to withdrawing water from the river.  [Read article here.]

* Hays County fight over pipeline project continues, illustrates tension in Texas groundwater regulation.  The Texas Tribune published a great article discussing a dispute going on in Hays County, Texas over a proposed water project that would allow Electro Purification to pump 2.5 million gallons of water a day from Hays County to a nearby town via pipeline and contract.  Electro Purification has a valid lease from two landowners in the area who, under Texas law, have a property right in their water.  Neighboring landowners are concerned about their water being sucked dry.  As the groundwater conservation district attorney explained, the district will likely face suit whether it denies the permit or grants it, providing a good example of the tension between private property rights and groundwater regulation here in Texas.  [Read article here.]

TAMU AgriLife photo by Robert Burns

* Texas Supreme Court holds no claim of intentional interference with inheritance available in Texas.  The Texas Supreme Court recently issued in opinion in Archer v. Anderson, in which it decided a question never answered by the state’s highest Court.  Because the court reasoned that there are other remedies at law available to the Archers and that it was not the Court’s place to judicially modify the Texas Probate Code, the justices held that Texas does not recognize the claim of intentional interference with inheritance.  [Read Opinion here.]

* North Carolina jury awards $25 million in second swine farm nuisance case.  You may recall from this prior blog post that there are 26 pending lawsuits in North Carolina against Smithfield Farms’ subsidiary, Murphy Brown, for nuisance.  The first case resulted in a $50 million verdict for the plaintiffs (which was later reduced to approximately $3 million due to a damage cap in state statute).  Last week, a jury in the second case also found in favor of the plaintiffs and awarded $25 million, which will likely be reduced to $630,000 under state law.  An appeal is expected.  [Read article here.]

*EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt resigns.  Scott Pruitt has resigned as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, amid investigations into several alleged scandals.  EPA Deputy Andrew Wheeler has been confirmed to serve as Acting Administrator.   [Read article here.]

*Dicamba damage being reported across the South.  Dicamba damage is starting to pop up in soybean fields across the South, something that many hoped was a thing of the past.  According to  Kevin Bradley, the Missouri Bootheel already reports 25,000 acres of damaged soybeans.  Numbers are worse in Arkansas, over 100,000 acres, despite an April 15 cut-off date for application.  Smaller acreage reports of damage are also being seen in Tennessee and Arkansas.  [Read article here.]

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