If you expected it to be a quiet summer for agricultural law, you were sorely mistaken! If the rest of the summer is anything like the first couple of weeks, we’re in for a lot of action. Here are a few of the ag law stories recently in the news.
* Governor Abbott signs HB 365, modifying the Texas Farm Animal Liability Act. We’ve discussed this bill previously while it was in committee, but Governor Abbot has now signed the FALA amendment passed by the legislature. This bill will make important changes to the Texas Farm Animal Liability Act. If you’re a farmer, rancher, livestock owner, or bee keeper, you need to be sure to check back on Monday for my full summary of the changes. The new provisions will be effective on September 1. [Read bill here.] Additionally, stay tuned for a blog post recapping the key bills for agriculture from this legislative session, and a podcast recap with our friend J Pete Laney to come later this summer.
*EPA announces it will revise definition of “waters of the United States;” seek remand of Navigable Waters Protection Rule. The saga regarding the meaning of “waters of the United States” within the Clean Water Act continues. You may recall that in 2015, the Obama administration passed the WOTUS Rule to define the term. That was rescinded by the Trump administration, who replaced it with the Navigable Waters Protection Rule. Both the WOTUS Rule and NWPR faced numerous lawsuits. Now, the Biden EPA has announced it will rescind the NWPR definition, thereby restoring the protections in place prior to the 2015 WOTUS Rule for the time being. The EPA intends to draft its own new definition. [Read press release here.]
*Texas grape growers sue Bayer, BASF over dicamba damage. A group of 57 Texas grape growers have filed suit against Bayer and BASF for damage caused by their dicamba products. We will have a blog post going into detail on the claims asserted coming soon. A second lawsuit was also field by an Arkansas honey producer claiming dicamba drift destroyed the vegetation the bees relied upon, resulting in damage to honey production and bee populations. [Read article here.]
*USFWS proposed re-listing of lesser prairie chicken under Endangered Species Act. Last week, the US Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to re-list the lesser prairie chicken under the Endangered Species Act. This proposal seeks to divide the lesser prairie chicken population into two groups. The proposal would list the northern population including Kansas, Oklahoma, the northeast Texas Panhandle and Colorado as “threatened.” The southern population, including the wouthwest Texas Panhandle and eastern New Mexico as “endangered.” USFWS will accept comments through August 2. Once the comment period closes, the USFWS will have a year to make its final listing decision. [Read article here.]
*Judge issues temporary restraining order suspending loan forgiveness program for socially disadvantaged farmers. A Wisconsin federal judge has issued a Temporary Restraining Order pausing the USDA’s loan forgiveness program for socially disadvantaged farmers. The lawsuit in which the TRO was granted challenges the constitutionality of the program and was filed by a number of white farmers in the Midwest. Currently, there are at least 5 federal lawsuits challenging this program. A preliminary injunction hearing is set for June 18. [Read article here.]
*Appellate court affirms dismissal of landowner lawsuit against Texas Railroad Commission involving Permian Highway Pipeline. You may recall that several landowners, Hays County, and the City of Kyle previously filed suit against the Texas Railroad Commission alleging failure to provide adequate oversight to the then-proposed Permian Highway Pipeline. The trial court dismissed the case. Last week, the Austin Court of Appeals affirmed. [Read opinion here.]
*Is carbon the crop of the future? There was an interesting article last week from AgriLife Today discussing the topic of carbon farming. This is certainly a hot topic in the news, and there is so great insight here from Extension faculty. [Read article here.]