Happy Friday! Today, I’m speaking in Crockett at our “Owning Your Piece of Texas: Top Laws Texas Landowners Need to Know” program. You’ve only got two more chances to catch one of these free events–Cat Spring on August 26 and College Station on September 12. For more info click here and to register click here.
Here are some ag law stories in the news from the last couple of weeks.
*Judge dismisses lawsuit challenging Kinder Morgan Permian Highway pipeline. You may recall from this prior blog post that a group of plaintiffs had filed suit seeking an injunction to stop the Kinder Morgan Permian Highway Pipeline based on allegations that the Texas Railroad Commission failed to provide required oversight in the pipeline routing process. This week, a Travis County judge dismissed the lawsuit finding no legal requirement for the RRC to oversee the routing process. Plaintiffs say they are considering a possible appeal or other legal action. [Read article here.]
*No Syngenta settlement payments coming this year. The Syngenta Claims Administrator has provided additional information regarding settlement payments for corn farmers who submitted claims forms last year. According to the Settlement Update, eligible class members will receive a “Notice of Determination” showing the number of bushels their payment will be calculated based upon “as early as July.” If someone provided insufficient information or otherwise failed to qualify as a class member, “Notices of Rejection” will be issued and those receiving such rejection notices will have the chance to attempt to cure any deficiencies. Final Notices of Rejection will be issued by the end of August. Once appeals from final notices have been allowed, the Settlement Administrator will provide a Final Report to the court. Additionally, a pending objection to the settlement is currently pending. It was rejected by the District Court but has been appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. In light of all this, no payments can be issued until the Final Report is submitted to the District Court and the appeal is resolved. The Claims Administrators anticipate the earliest payments may be processed to be February 2020. [View Settlement Update here.]
*US Supreme Court overrules precedent; citizens may now bring allegations of takings by local government directly to federal court. In a 5-4 opinion in Knick v. Township of Scott, the US Supreme Court overturned decades of precedent that required plaintiffs claiming local governments violated the takings clause must have gone through state courts prior to being filed in the federal judiciary. Now, that is no longer the case, and a plaintiff may file court directly in federal court. In addition to this being a major change to procedure for these types of cases, it also shows a willingness on the High Court to overrule decades-old precedence, something that Justice Elena Kagen raised as a concern in her dissenting opinion. [Read opinion here and articles here and here.]
*Lawsuit filed against North Carolina’s new Right to Farm statute. You may recall that last year, the North Carolina Legislature modified and strengthened the state’s Right to Farm Act by adding additional restrictions on when a plaintiff may bring a nuisance lawsuit against an agricultural operation. Environmental groups have now filed suit, challenging the constitutionality of this new law. [Read Complaint here and article here.]
*USDA says states may not block interstate transfer of hemp. The USDA has issued a memo stating that states may not block the interstate transport of hemp, despite it continuing to be illegal in some states. Meanwhile, the USDA is currently working to promulgate federal rules related to hemp production in light of the 2018 Farm Bill removing hemp from the Controlled Substances Act. It is the absence of these rules that some states, like Idaho, argue allow them to prohibit hemp transport through the state. [Read Memo here and article here.]
*”Tackling the agriculture industry’s mental-health crisis starts with farmers like us.” Mental health issues in agriculture is a topic near and dear to my heart. This week, I came across an article by Lesley Kelly discussing how it’s up to farmers like us to help save our friends and neighbors. Here’s a quote from the article that really resonated with me. “When we see smoke when a combine or a barn is burning, farmers know our neighbors are quick to run to lend a hand. But we’re still not at a place where we can be sure that the same is true during mental-health challenges….The agriculture industry is amazing because of our people–and right now, our people are hurting. We need to grab a bucket and shovel, and run to the combine fire.” [Read article here.]