Frequently Updated Questions: Hey, Paul Does Growing Hemp Qualify for the Right-to-Farm Defense?

Industrial hemp being grown in Pennsylvania (Photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program)

The article is not a substitute for legal advice..

          The 2018 Farm Bill allows for more growers to grow industrial hemp. A farmer looking to add industrial hemp on fields creates the possibility of conflicts between neighboring landowners. The neighbors may not understand that industrial hemp is now legal to grow or other concerns. Industrial hemp is now a legal commodity and growers would potentially fall under Maryland’s right-to-farm (RTF) law. Industrial hemp growers would be eligible for the nuisance defense in the RTF law.

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“Family Farmer Relief Act of 2019” Raises the Aggregated Debt Limit For Chapter 12 Bankruptcies

Combine harvesting soybeans. Image is by United Soybean Board.

The article is not a substitute for legal advice.

            Congress has recently passed and the President has signed the Family Farmer Relief Act of 2019.  This change in the law will raise the aggregated debt limit with Chapter 12 bankruptcies for family farms to $10 million up from the $4,411,400.  This increase in the aggregated debt limits will allow for more family farmers to qualify for the Chapter 12 bankruptcy option.  

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Updated: Where Are My Syngenta Settlement Payments: Why Have Checks Not Been Issued Yet?

Harvesting corn in Maryland with combine dumping grain into truck. Image by the Chesapeake Bay Program.

            A number of you have asked when potential Syngenta settlement checks would be released to growers.  In late 2018, the settlement order was approved for the $1.51 billion MIR162 Syngenta settlement.  Based on the final order, payments to producers should have started going out in the second quarter of 2019.  At this time that has not happened, but recently the Settlement website has been updated to reflect to show that class members can expect to see class determinations will go out in July 2019 that will show their compensable recovery quantity.  Other producers who did not supply enough information, should have gotten notices of rejection in June 2019.  Payment timing is expected to be at the earliest February 2020.

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Webinar to Address Issues Associated With Hiring and Training New Employees on the Farm

Dairy of Distinction 2013 Kennedyville MD

        Agricultural operations may not always take the time to do simple background checks or provide employees with the proper initial training that can cause huge issues down the road.  Recent news has highlighted what can go wrong when agricultural operations hire employees with limited knowledge of agricultural practices. The University of Maryland will host a webinar focused on proper hiring and training techniques for agricultural operations on July 12 starting at noon (EST).

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Maryland Court of Special Appeals Overturns Lower Court, Finding Pesticide Ordinance Is Not Preempted by State Law

Sprayer in field. Image by United Soybean Board

This is not a substitute for legal advice.

            In 2015, the Montgomery County Council passed a bill prohibiting the use of certain pesticides on private and county-owned properties.  The law limited the use of pesticides registered with the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA), allowing pesticides listed by the county for non-essential cosmetic purposes, and exempting agricultural applications.  In 2017, the Montgomery County circuit court found that Maryland state law preempted the ordinance; click here to see my overview of this ruling.  The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland recently issued an opinion overruling the circuit court.  The Court of Special Appeals found that federal and state laws in Montgomery County v. Complete Lawn Care, Inc. do not preempt the ordinance.

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Where Are My Syngenta Settlement Payments: Why Have Checks Not Been Issued Yet?

A farmer harvests corn in Queen Anne’s County, Md. Photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program

The article is not a substitute for legal advice.

            A number of you have asked when potential Syngenta settlement checks would be released to growers.  In late 2018, the settlement order was approved for the $1.51 billion MIR162 Syngenta settlement.  Based on the final order, payments to producers should have started going out in the second quarter of 2019.  At this time that has not happened due to a number of unresolved appeals which could impact the final settlement.  Till these issues are resolved or we have more information, Mid-Atlantic growers should remain patient.

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2019 Brings Potential Changes to Hemp Production in Maryland

Industrial hemp being grown on University of Kentucky research farm. Image by University of Kentucky

The article is not a substitute for legal advice. 

            As I have discussed earlier, the 2018 Farm Bill makes significant changes to the classification of hemp and allows states to begin to develop regulations for the legal production of hemp.  The 2018 Farm Bill removes hemp from the definition of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act and allows for states and tribal governments to begin developing hemp production plans.  Hemp produced under these plans will potentially be eligible for the federal crop insurance program.  The Maryland General Assembly during the previous session passed legislation allowing the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) to develop a hemp production plan for the state.  MDA will be able to create this hemp production plan once USDA releases the guidelines for the state programs.

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Court of Appeals Finds Indiana Hog Farm Entitled to Right-to-Farm Defense, Upholding Its Constitutionality

Image of hogs in modern hog facility. Image is by Kevin Chang via flickr.com.

The article is not a substitute for legal advice. 

            In 2019, we continue to see decisions involving the application of the right-to-farm law (RTF) defense in a few states.  Recently, the Court of Appeals of Indiana upheld a trial court’s decision applying the state’s RTF law.  In this case, the RTF law applied to claims that a neighboring hog farm was creating a nuisance.  Although over the past 18 months, we have seen decisions involving RTF laws not applying to agricultural companies being hit with large damage verdicts, it is crucial to remember that in many cases, the RTF defense continues to apply and prevent large verdicts.

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Court of Appeals Agrees USDA Did Not Have the Discretion to Implement New Program Benefiting Farmers

Combine dumping wheat into grain cart pulled by tractor in wheat field in Colorado. Image by Shannon Dizmang.

The article is not a substitute for legal advice.

            Many are paying attention to the implementation of the new Farm Bill, looking at how changes to existing and new programs will operate.  One issue that may come up after passing the 2018 Farm Bill is how quickly USDA must implement program changes or new programs.  In Ausmus v. Perdue, a group of Colorado wheat farmers recently had a lower court decision upheld.  The farmers had requested a new crop insurance product authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill before USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) implemented a product for wheat.  The lower court ruled and the court of appeals agreed that although it might conflict with the agency’s other duties under federal law, RMA had to allow producers to use the program after the effective date of the 2014 Farm Bill and not when RMA implemented the regulations. 

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2018 Farm Bill Makes Hemp Production Legal; But State Still Needs to Act to Take Advantage of Change

Close-ups of the industrial hemp research plots at the Spindletop research farm. Image by University of Kentucky

The article is not a substitute for legal advice.

I recently contributed an article to Maryland Bar Bulletin on changes to hemp restrictions in the 2018 Farm Bill and what needs to happen before farmers can grow the crop legally. The Maryland Bar Bulletin recently published the article online.

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