Another Class Action Filed Claiming Companies Have Miscategorized Contract Growers

Image of poultry house with grass buffer strip before harvested field. Image by the Chesapeake Bay Program

The article is not a substitute for legal advice. 

            Earlier this year, I posted about a recently filed class action lawsuit involving contract poultry growers, arguing that they were employees of Amick Farms and not independent contractors. For anyone needing a refresher on a class action lawsuit, I encourage you to check out that post.  Another class action lawsuit filed in Georgia by growers for Perdue argues the growers are employees and not independent contractors.  The lawsuit also contends that Perdue failed to pay the growers the federal minimum wage and overtime and breached the grower agreement by calling the growers independent contractors. This new lawsuit is Parker v. Perdue Farms, Inc., No. 5:22-cv-00268-TES.

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Biden Administration Announces Proposed Changes to the Poultry Tournament System

Chicken barns rise from a farm in Queen Anne’s County, Md., on June 27, 2016. Manure accounts for 19 percent of the nitrogen and 26 percent of the phosphorus entering the Chesapeake Bay, according to a 2010 report by the Environmental Protection Agency. (Photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program with aerial support by LightHawk)

The article is not a substitute for legal advice. This work is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

            The Biden administration recently announced a proposed regulation to revise the Packers and Stockyards Act to require more disclosures to contract poultry growers.  These regulations would fully replace the proposed regulations announced by the Trump administration.  The regulations being proposed by USDA are to combat a concern by USDA that poultry growers are not fully aware of the financial risks associated with flock placements and the tournament system.  At the same time, there is a concern that growers potentially are making financial decisions involving improvements to houses without fully understanding the financial risks.  The proposed rules would assist in combating that.  The current administration’s proposed regulations are similar to efforts made at the end of the Obama administration to create transparency in the tournament system.  

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Interpreting Conservation Easements and When New Structures are Allowed

Image of tractor in field by Chesapeake Bay Program

The article is not a substitute for legal advice. 

            The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland recently reversed the Circuit Court for Howard County’s granting of summary judgment involving how to interpret a conservation easement.  At issue in the decision is whether the easement allowed for additional residences to be built on the preserved farmland beyond the existing four residences when the easement was granted.  The easement permitted additional structures supporting continued agricultural use of the land to be built.  The new owners argued that the new house was an “additional structure” and should be allowed.  The decision is in Roxbury View, LLC v. McCauley.

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Recent Wind Farm Decision Highlights Difference in State Processes

Image of wind turbine in field by Chesapeake Bay Program

The article is not a substitute for legal advice. 

            A recent decision by Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals highlights the differences that proposed power generation facilities can bring before the Public Service Commission (PSC). For example, a proposed power generation facility can consider applying for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) or for an exemption from the CPCN process.  The recent decision in Dan’s Mountain WindForce, LLC v. Shaw highlights the differences between these two processes, which will be vital to understand as renewable energy development in the state increases.

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Potential Class Action Lawsuit Filed Arguing Broiler Growers Are Employees of Company

Image of poultry houses with deer in the foreground. Image is by Chesapeake Bay Program

The article is not a substitute for legal advice. 

            An interesting potential class action was recently filed in U.S. district court in South Carolina involving a broiler grower and Amick Farms.  In this class action suit, the grower argues that they and other similarly situated growers for Amick Farms are Amick employees and not independent contractors as their contracts state.  This action is currently in the early stages and will be worth watching for those in the industry going forward. It is important to note that, however, as of right now, the action only involves Amick Farms and no other integrated poultry operations.  The action in question is Diaz v. Amick Farms, LLC, No. 5:22-CV-01246.

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Idaho CAFO Permit Sent Back to EPA for Lack of Monitoring

Image showing spreading liquid manure on a field by Chesapeake Bay Program.

This is not a substitute for legal advice. 

            Recently, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated Idaho’s Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for lack of monitoring underground discharges and potential discharges from dry weather applications.  Food and Water Watch (FWW) and the Snake River Waterkeepers (SRW) brought the lawsuit.  The decision vacates the permit back to EPA to determine its next steps.  The decision is in Food & Water Watch v. EPA.

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Ninth Circuit Rules in Favor of Beef Checkoff Program

This is not a substitute for legal advice. 

Image of barn and livestock corral in Montana. The image is by Daimon Eklund

            The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed a U.S. District Court of the District of Montana decision holding that the Montana Beef Council’s and other qualified state beef councils’ (QSBCs) advertisements are exempt from First Amendment scrutiny. The decision is in Ranchers Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America v. Vilsack, No. 20-35453 (9th Cir. July 27, 2021).

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Group Does Not Have Standing to Challenge USDA Loan Guarantee for Poultry Farm

Maryland poultry farm on the lower Eastern Shore by the Chesapeake Bay Program

This is not a substitute for legal advice. 

            Back in 2018, I posted on a federal district court decision involving a challenge to a USDA loan guarantee granted to a new Maryland poultry farm in Caroline County.  Food & Water Watch (FWW) had challenged the environmental assessment required at the time to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA); see that information here.  In 2018, the federal district held that FWW had standing to bring the challenge. Still, a federal court of appeals recently reversed this decision. A two-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia, agreed that FWW did not have standing. 

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State Court Declines to Use Public Trust Doctrine in Lawsuit over Water Quality

This is not a substitute for legal advice.

Image of crossing over the Raccoon River in Iowa. Image is by Michael Leland

            The Supreme Court of Iowa recently found that a dispute brought by two groups against the state of Iowa lacked standing and was not an issue the courts could decide.  The two groups claim that excessive nitrate levels from agricultural runoff into the Raccoon River had impaired recreational uses of the river and increased costs to purify the water for drinking.  The decision, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement v. State of Iowa, can be found here.

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Supreme Court of Mississippi Finds Use of Scare Guns Falls Under the Right-to-Farm Law

Image of trucks and granaries on farm. Image by United Soybean Board.

This is not a substitute for legal advice. 

            I am back again, highlighting another court decision covering a state’s right-to-farm law and the use of scare guns. In Mississippi, two producers began using propane cannon scare guns to prevent deer from eating their cotton and soybean crops during the summer months. The propane cannons created loud noises, and the neighbors’ ensuing lawsuit tried to prevent the two producers from using the cannons, claiming nuisance. The trial court agreed with the two producers that the state’s right-to-farm law barred the nuisance claim, and the Supreme Court of Mississippi recently upheld the trial court’s ruling, in Briggs v. Hughes.

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