April 19, 2019 Weekly Round Up

Happy Friday and Happy Easter!  Here are a few ag law stories in the news this week.

*EPA Publishes “Interpretive Statement” on Applicability of Clean Water Act to Groundwater as Conduit.  You may recall from this prior blog post the legal issue surrounding groundwater as a conduit.  Basically, the question has arisen about whether the discharge of a point source pollutant into groundwater that is connected to a Water of the United States is withing the scope of the Clean Water Act.  The Environmental Protection Agency issued an “interpretive statement” this week, stating that “releases of pollutants to groundwater are categorically excluded from the Act’s permitting requirements because Congress explicitly left regulation of discharges to groundwater to the states and to the EPA under other statutory authority.”  Keep in mind, the US Supreme Court granted cert in a case addressing this issue, Hawaii Wildlife Fund v. County of Maui, which is expected to be heard late in 2019. [Read related documents here.]

*USDA published 2017 Census of Agriculture. The USDA recently published the 2017 Census of Agriculture. [View website here.]  The report provides data on a variety of different issues and metrics.  Some interesting takeaways include the following statistics:  96% of farms and ranches in the US are family owned; farms with internet access increased from 69.6% in 2010 to 75.4% in 2017; the average age of the American farmer increased to 57.5 years of age, up 1.2 years from 2012; 36% of all producers are female; and average farm income was $43,053. [Read article here.]

*Texas court finds for landowners in Endangered Species Act case.  A federal court recently ruled in favor of landowners and others challenging the US Fish and Wildlife Services’s refusal to remove the bone cave harvestman from the Endangered Species Act list.  In 2014, the plaintiffs filed a petition to delist, which the USFWS denied.  The court remanded that decision back to USFWS, finding the agency had failed to use the proper standard in making that determination. [Read full Opinion here and article here.]

* Lawsuit brewing over Kinder Morgan Permian Highway Pipeline. This week, the City of Kyle and the County of Hays both voted to hire attorneys and file suit against Kinder Morgan and the Texas Railroad Commission over the Permian Highway Pipeline that will cut through the Hill Country.  Other plaintiffs in the litigation will include Texas Real Estate Advocacy and Defense Coalition, the Braun & Gresham law firm, landowners Scott and Lana Nance, and conservationist Andrew Sansom.  The lawsuit will challenge the constitutionality of the project, among other issues. [Read article here.]

*Iowa court awards attorney’s fees to plaintiffs in “ag gag” case.  You may recall from this prior blog post that earlier this year, an Iowa court found the state’s “ag gag” law unconstitutional.  This week, the judge awarded over $181,000 in legal fees to the plaintiffs in the case.  The State has appealed the Court’s finding of unconstitutionality. [Read article here.]

Upcoming Programs

Next week will be quite busy for my travel schedule!  On Tuesday, I’ll be in Canadian at the Hemphill County Beef Conference speaking an agricultural leases and liability. [Click here for more info.]  On Wednesday, I’ll be in Burnet for our Ranchers Leasing Workshop.  We’ve got a few spots left, click here for more information.  To register, click here or call (979)845-2604.  Thursday will take me to Kerrville to speak at the Hill Country Land Stewardship Conference.  Click here for more info on that event.  I hope to see some of you on the road!

To see my full list of upcoming programs, click here.

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