August 10, 2018 Weekly Round Up

I’m back from a great time in College Station at the TAMU Beef Cattle Short Course.  It’s an excellent event and is attended each year by over 2,000 cattle producers.  I spoke three times on various agricultural law issues and had a great time.   Welcome to those of you joining from BCSC.  To read more about this event, click here.

Here are some of the ag law stories in the news this week.

* NM State Engineer dismisses groundwater pumping permit for San Augustin Ranch.  For years, I’ve been watching closely as the San Augustin Ranch sought a permit to pump water in rural New Mexico to be piped and sold to more urban cities in the state.  Remember, in New Mexico, groundwater is governed by the prior appropriation doctrine, meaning that folks seeking to produce groundwater must obtain a permit from the State Engineer.  Each of San Augustin’s prior attempts were thwarted by the NM State Engineer’s office as the permit application to pump the water was deemed incomplete and speculative.  The third time was not the charm for the permit-seekers, as the NM State Engineer again denied the permit this week, noting a “striking absence of information” regarding who the end user would be and to what beneficial use the water would be put.  [Read article here.]

*FDA to issue guidance document outlining standards for labeling product “milk.”  The FDA has announced it will develop a guidance document to limit the products that may be labeled as “milk.”  The EPA will take public comment and predicts that it will likely be at least a year before the guidance is finalized.  [Read article here.]

*Texas case addresses who owns tree growing on property line.  The Dallas Court of Appeals recently issued an opinion in a dispute between neighboring landowners over whether a tree on the boundary line could be removed.  The tree was 26″ in diameter with only 5″ being on the Stanton’s property and the reminder being on the property of the defendant.  The court agreed that ownership of the tree rests with the landowner upon whose land the trunk sits, here, the neighbor upon whose property the majority of the tree rested had ownership.  Quoting the Texas Supreme Court in an opinion from 1900, the court explained, “A tree and all its roots and branches belong to the owner of the soil upon which its trunk stands…”  [Read opinion here.]

*What the new tax law means for agricultural and rural landowners.  I was happy to be interviewed for an article published by Farm Credit about how the new tax laws will impact farmers and ranchers next year.  The article does a great job walking through various provisions most likely to impact those of us involved in agriculture when it’s time to file our taxes for 2018. [Read article here.]

* “Having a baby changes everything” reminds parents of the need for guardianship provisions in estate planning documents.  Smith Amundsen recently published an article discussing the importance of parents with minor children having estate planning documents in place that address guardianship of the children.  The article discusses the conservator process, which is what happens if no guardian designation is made and explains that the appointment of a guardian and creation of a trust for the children is generally a much more desirable approach that gives the parents more of a voice in what will happen.  [Read article here.]

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