It’s been a busy couple of weeks in the world of agricultural law. I want to welcome those of you who I met at speaking events for the Hill Country Cattle Women in Fredericksburg and the Owning Your Piece of Texas Ag Law Workshop in San Antonio. If you’d like to see an article and short video about our Owning Your Piece of Texas program, click here.
Here are some of the major ag law stories in the news over the past two weeks.
*Lawsuit filed against US Fish and Wildlife related to lesser prairie chicken. Several environmental groups have filed suit against the US Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to list prairie chicken under the Endangered Species Act. These groups filed a petition for listing in September 2016 and the USFWS has failed to make a finding on that petition. You may recall that back in 2014, the lesser prairie chicken was listed by the USFWS as “threatened” under the ESA, but that decision was later overturned by a federal judge here in Texas. [Read Complaint here.]
*Governor Abbott signs law paving way for hemp production and legal CBD oil sales in Texas. Governor Abbot has signed HB 1325, which will set a framework for rules and regulations necessary to allow Texas farmers to begin legally producing hemp. Importantly, this bill does not allow hemp to be grown, but instead requires the Texas Department of Agriculture to promulgate a state plan to regulate hemp production in Texas. Before TDA can do so, it will have to wait for USDA rules to be passed on the federal level. So, while this is certainly a step in the direction of hemp production in the Lone Star State, we still have a long row to hoe, as my dad would say. [Read article here and bill text here.]
*FDA holds public hearing on regulation of CBD oil. Although the CBD industry is booming, there remains a lot regulatory uncertainty on the topic. The Food and Drug Administration recently held a public hearing on regulations of CBD oil. Steptoe & Johnson PLLC wrote an article summarizing five key takeaways as identified by FDA Deputy Commissioner, Amy Abernethy. [Read article here.]
*EPA passes rule exempting animal waste emissions from EPCRA. The Environmental Protection Agency has passed a final rule expressly exempting air emissions from animal wastes from reporting requirements under the EPCRA statute. You may recall that in 2018, Congress passed an Act exempting animal waste emissions from CERCLA reporting, but that statute failed to address EPCRA. This new rule answers that potential issue and affirms the position that EPA has taken on this issue since March 2018. It is expected that environmental groups may file suit against the EPA, challenging the rule. [Read article here.]
*Why farmers have not received Syngenta settlement distributions. Corn farmers may be wondering why they have yet to receive their settlement check from the Syngenta class action litigation that was settled last year. According to a Syngenta spokesman, Syngenta has contributed the $1.5 billion settlement into a settlement fund to make distributions, but due to pending objections to the settlement and appeals of the court’s settlement approval, payments cannot be made until those legal actions are resolved. [Read article here.]
*”Should I be worried about death taxes?” Farm Progress recently published a great article on this topic. Although under current law, many Americans do not need to be concerned with potential federal estate tax liability at death, the article does a good job pointing out that that law is not permanent and there are several considerations to keep in mind. [Read article here.]