Hello there! I’m not sure how it happened, but the month of January got away from me and I apologize for the lack of Weekly Round Up Posts. Several readers have contacted me to ask if I would be continuing these and the answer is yes, but they will likely be bi-weekly. Thank you for your kind comments about how you enjoy these posts.
So far, January has been a fun month with several speaking events. I kicked things off lecturing at the King Ranch Institute for Ranch Management Real Estate Law Lectureship and really enjoyed that opportunity. Next, I have spoken at county programs in Brownfield and Muncy. Welcome to those of you joining from any of these events.
Here are several ag law stories in the news over the past month or so.
* Solicitor General weighs in on Clean Water Act groundwater as a conduit cases. Recall from this prior blog post that the US Supreme Court is currently considering whether to hear cases on whether the Clean Water Act is applicable to indirect discharges through groundwater. Before Christmas, the Court asked the Solicitor General to weigh in on whether it should take the cases. The Solicitor General filed a brief in the cases with a position that the Court should take at least the County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Foundation case to address only the issue of the current circuit split on whether the Clean Water Act applies to pollutants released from a point source that travel through groundwater and end up in navigable waters. [Read brief here.] The Court has yet to announce whether it will hear either of these cases this term.
*Pipeline planned through the Texas Hill Country. I’ve gotten numerous calls and inquiries about a proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline that will travel from the Permian Basin, through the Hill Country to the Gulf Coast. Understandably, landowners along the potential route are concerned and scrambling to learn what they can about the law and their rights. The Braun & Gresham law firm has a website devoted to this pipeline that includes maps from Kinder Morgan. There have been a couple of good articles in local newspapers like this and this mentioning various concerns and outlining legal considerations for landowners. Additionally, with regard to eminent domain, I recommend listening to this prior podcast episode I did with Luke Ellis, as well as getting a copy of the Texas Landowner Bill of Rights and my Texas Pipeline Easement Negotiation Checklist.
*Farm Bill allows industrial hemp production; still illegal in Texas. The Farm Bill legalized hemp production on the federal level, by removing hemp (with less than .3% THC) from the Controlled Substances Act and allowing states to regulate hemp production. Thus, on the federal level, hemp will be treated as a commodity for purposes of various programs like crop insurance. Importantly, however, until laws and regulations are passed at the state level, industrial hemp production remains illegal in Texas. Changing this will likely require removal of hemp as a controlled substance under the Texas Penal code, passing statutes naming a state agency to draft regulations related to hemp production, and then that designated agency (likely the Texas Department of Agriculture) promulgating rules related to hemp production. There is at least one bill currently pending in the Texas Legislature, SB 116, that would allow hemp production and research in the state. [Read bill here.] For more details on the current status of hemp and what the new Farm Bill provisions authorize, read this blog post from my friend Peggy Kirk Hall at Ohio State University.
*US Supreme Court declines to consider cases challenging California & Massachusetts animal welfare laws. You may recall from this prior blog post that numerous states, including Texas, filed lawsuits against California and Massachusetts alleging that the states’ animal welfare laws related to egg production violated the dormant commerce clause and were unconstitutional. Essentially, the plaintiff states argued that while CA and MA can pass laws regarding agricultural practices in their own states, they should not be able to govern practices in other states by requiring all products sold–not just raised–in the state to comply with the states’ rules. Earlier this month, the US Supreme Court denied the petitions to file the cases. [Read article here.]
* Guidebook for dairy farmers on milk supply contracts available. My friends and Indiana-based ag lawyers Todd Janzen and Brianna Schroeder recently published a great resource for everyone involved in the dairy industry. Their “Understanding Milk Supply Contracts” publication walks dairy producers through various common terms found in milk supply contracts and compares similar terms across several different contracts and purchasers. This guidebook is available for free by contacting Todd or Brianna here.
Programs Next Week
Next week, I’ll be headed to my friends in East Texas! On Wednesday, I’ll be speaking at our Ranchers Leasing Workshop, which will be held in conjunction with the NE Texas Cattleman’s Conference in Quitman. Thursday evening, I’ll be in Hallsville talking estate planning. On Friday, I’ll wrap up the week in Kilgore speaking at the Value of Land Seminar on a variety of legal issues with fellow ag lawyers, Jim Bradbury and Jordan Hayes.
As always, you can see a complete list of my upcoming programs here. I hope to see you out on the road this year!