Maryland Court Rules Poultry Farm Manager Is Co-Employee of Integrator in Workers’ Compensation Case

Chicken barns rise from a farm in Queen Anne’s County, Md., on June 27, 2016. (Photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program with aerial support by LightHawk).

The article is not a substitute for legal advice. 

            The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, in Uninsured Employers’ Fund v. Tyson Farms, Inc., recently agreed with the Workers’ Compensation Commission that a poultry farm manager’s occupational disease disablement arose out of his co-employment to both the poultry farm owner and the poultry company, Tyson Farms, Inc. Tyson may appeal to the Court of Appeals of Maryland, but growers and companies should consider the possible implications of this decision.

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Federal Estate Tax and Gift Tax Limits Announced For 2020

Soybean crops stand ready for harvest in a farm field in Queen Anne’s County, Md., on Oct. 24, 2012. (Photo by Steve Droter/Chesapeake Bay Program)

This is not a substitute for legal advice. 

            In November, the IRS announced the revised federal estate tax and gift tax limits for 2020.  For 2020, the federal estate tax limit will increase from $11.4 million to $11.58 million.  The federal gift tax limit will remain at $15,000 in 2020. In Maryland, state estate tax limits will stay at $5 million.

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Minnesota Agency Should Have Taken into Account Climate Change Impact Before Allowing Dairy to Expand

Minnesota Farm by Derek Bakken

The article is not a substitute for legal advice.

Recently the Court of Appeals of Minnesota partially reversed the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA) determination that an environmental impact statement (EIS) for a proposed dairy expansion was not needed. During the public comment period, the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA) raised concerns that the MPCA had not addressed climate change and the greenhouse gas emissions from the expansion, and the MPCA should develop an EIS to approve the expansion. The court of appeals agreed with the MCEA, and now the MPCA will need to conduct an additional environmental review before approving the expansion and the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit (NPDES) modifications. This ruling has raised a concern that other states may see similar challenges.

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New South Wales Considers Right-to-Farm Law and Enhanced Trespass Penalties

Rural scene in New South Wales Australia. Image by Indigo Skies Photography.

The article is not a substitute for legal advice.  Note: this post is based on the First Print of the bill and not subsequent prints.

            The Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) has recently seen a bill introduced in Parliament that would create an American-style right-to-farm law. This law, if enacted, would create a nuisance defense to NSW farms qualifying under the law. At the same time, the bill would increase the penalties for trespass that results in released livestock. Trespass penalties increase to a possible three-year jail term for trespassers. The debate in this legislation is ongoing, and we will have to wait to see if this legislation passes.

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Baltimore City Food Truck Ordinance is Constitutional

Image of food truck. Image by Peter Burnham

The article is not a substitute for legal advice. 

            Over the past few years, a revolution in the food service industry has developed with the increased popularity of food trucks.  Although many may love to get their daily lunch from food trucks, these vehicles have raised some concerns among many brick-and-mortar restaurant owners.  Baltimore City imposed restrictions on food trucks, limiting them from operating within 300 feet of any retail business establishment primarily engaged in selling the same type of food product, other merchandise, or services (Art. 15 § 17-33).  Food truck operators challenged this law in circuit court, and the ordinance was found unconstitutional for vagueness issues.  The City appealed, and the Maryland Court of Special Appeals recently ruled that the ordinance is not illegal, reversing the circuit court.  The Maryland Court of Appeals has agreed to hear the case on appeal, possibly putting an end to litigation involving the ordinance.

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In Need of Attorney? New Resource to Assist Available

Caroline County Courthouse in Denton Maryland. (Photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program)

A new publication from the University of Maryland can assist Marylanders in searching for and questions to use when interviewing an attorney. Finding An Attorney for Your Case Requires Asking the Right Questions provides a starting point for those feeling overwhelmed in searching for an attorney.

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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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