It has been a busy week with agricultural law news coming in from across the country! Let’s get caught up on some of the biggest stories in the news.
*Texas federal court dismisses COVID-19 negligence lawsuit against Tyson. The US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas dismissed a lawsuit employees brought against Tyson Foods claiming Tyson was negligent in the safety measures put in place at their facilities, which caused the plaintiffs to contract COVID-19. The court found these claims were preempted by the Poultry Products Inspection Act and were prohibited by the Texas Pandemic Liability Protection Act for failing to adequately allege causation. [Read Opinion & Order here.]
*Update on potential estate and capital gains tax changes. The Farm CPA Today blog had a great article outlining the proposed tax changes that were included in a House Ways and Means Committee bill. Remember–none of this has been passed, it is merely a summary of what is currently on the table in one particular bill. Of particular importance to agricultural operations, this bill would not make any changes to the step up in basis or 1031 exchanges. It would decrease the currently lifetime exemption for estate taxes to $5 million (adjusted for inflation), and increase the 2032A estate tax deduction by increasing the limit to $11.7 million. Do keep in mind that Section 2032A comes with some limitations you will need to consider. [Read blog posts here and here.]
*Motions to dismiss denied in two beef-related lawsuits. There were orders denying motions to dismiss in a couple of beef-related lawsuits.
In the US District Court for the District of Columbia, a Motion to Dismiss was denied in R-CALF v. USDA, a lawsuit where R-Calf alleges the USDA improperly entered into agreements with Qualified State Beef Counsels, rather than engaging in required notice and comment rulemaking. USDA sought to dismiss the case. The court denied the motion to dismiss but sought additional briefing on issues related to the factual basis for associational standing. [Read Order here.]
In New Mexico, a federal court denied a motion to dismiss in Thornton v. The Kroger Company, a proposed class action lawsuit challenging claims made by grocery stores Kroger and Albertsons were deceptive as they labeled imported beef as products of the United States. The court did order the plaintiff submit an amended complaint explaining which advertisements belong to which defendants, how they were circulated, where they were seen, and when the products were purchased. [Read Order here.]
*Petition for review filed in case challenging California Proposition 12. National Pork Producers and the American Farm Bureau Federation have sought review from the United States Supreme Court in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 12, a law banning the sale of pork in California unless it was raised with certain requirements regarding spacing in barns. This appeal comes from the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit dismissed the case. [Read article here.]
*Idaho CAFO permit sent back to EPA after court finds lack of monitoring. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently vacated Idaho’s Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation NPDES permit after finding that there was a lack of monitoring underground discharges and discharges from dry weather applications. With the vacatur, the permit will be sent back to the EPA to deal with these issues and to add in the necessary monitoring requirement. Idaho could also seek review from the US Supreme Court, but that deadline has not yet passed. [Read opinion here and article here.]
*NM federal court vacates Navigable Waters Protection Rule. The US District Court for the District of New Mexico recently issued an opinion and order vacating the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, the Trump administration’s rule defining “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act. [Read Order here.] You will recall from this prior blog post that an Arizona federal court issued a similar order last month. As it stands, neither the Navigable Waters Protection Rule nor the WOTUS Rule are currently in place. The Biden administration is said to be working on their own definition that is expected to be released for comment in the coming months.
*Farm safety story. Holly Spangler wrote a story on farm safety urging everyone to slow down and be careful during harvest season to avoid disaster. This line was chilling to me, “Stop thinking it won’t happen to you, because that kind of thinking is killing us.” [Read article here.]
*Our Rural Roots Column. I recently wrote my newest Our Rural Roots column for Progressive Farmer magazine. This is something different that my usual legal writing, and I really enjoy it! To read my recent article about our trip to Lake Tahoe, click here.
Next Friday (October 15), I’ll be speaking virtually at the East Texas Farm, Ranch & Wildlife Expo. We’ll be talking estate planning and landowner liability. For more information, click here.
The following week, I’ll be in Brenham on Friday the 22nd at the 50th Annual South Central Texas Cow-Calf Clinic to chat about estate planning. Click here for more info.
As always, I keep a full list of my upcoming schedule here.
Don’t forget we have online courses available 24/7! You can listen to me teach about agricultural law and agricultural leases anytime from the comfort of your home. Click here to see all of the courses I have available.