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Late in 2020, we had a North Carolina Hog Farm Litigation settlement that ended several lawsuits filed against Murphy-Brown, LLC and Smithfield Foods. In May 2020, neighboring landowners filed a new set of federal lawsuits against Murphy-Brown and Smithfield, the same defendants in the prior lawsuits. Similar to the previous lawsuits, neighbors sued the companies that the farms grow for, not the actual hog farms themselves. In these lawsuits, the neighbors used legal theories based on trespass and negligence and not around nuisance. Recently, the federal judge hearing the lawsuit allowed it to continue and ruled the state’s right-to-farm law did not apply, though providing a defense in this case to the trespass and negligence claims. The judge also dismissed two other claims brought by the neighbors.
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.
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.
Combine unloading wheat into a semi truck in a harvested field. Photo by Shannon Dizmag via flickr.com
The article is not a substitute for legal advice.
Many of us are paying attention to the debate over the new Farm Bill and looking at how changes to existing programs and potential new programs. One issue that may come up after passing a new Farm Bill is how quickly USDA must implement the program changes or new programs. In Ausmus v. Perdue, a group of Colorado wheat farmers recently won after selecting to utilize a new crop insurance product before USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) had implemented the product for wheat. The court ruled that although it might conflict with other duties had under federal law, RMA had to allow producers the ability to use the program after the effective date of the 2014 Farm Bill and not when RMA had implemented the regulations. Continue reading →
Food trucks in San Francisco. Image by Todd Lappin
The article is not a substitute for legal advice.
Many of you may not live in areas with access to food trucks, but in areas where there are food trucks there can be disputes between traditional brick and mortar restaurants and the food trucks. Recently, Baltimore City imposed restrictions on food trucks that limited food trucks from operating within 300 feet of any retail business establishment that is primarily engaged in selling the same type of food product, other merchandise, or services as that offered by the food truck operator (Art. 15 § 17-33). Food truck operators challenged this law in circuit court and the law recently found to be void for vagueness and rejected arguments that the law violated Maryland Declaration of Rights protections of Due Process and Equal Protection. Continue reading →
Image by Ken Lane and shows Oxbow Bend Sunrise in the Grand Teton National Park
This post is not legal advice.
Recently, a federal court of appeals reversed a lower court decision involving a data trespass law passed by Wyoming in 2015. This new trespass law created criminal and civil penalties when a person trespassed to collect resource data on private property. The court of appeals concluded that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protected the collection of data and the new trespass law was unconstitutional. Wyoming’s new trespass law did not directly speak to protecting agricultural operations; many have viewed this law as a form of an ag-gag law. As we have discussed before, although it is unconstitutional for states to adopt these laws, producers still have options to protect their operations. Continue reading →
Maryland farmland in Talbot County image by Chesapeake Bay Program via Flickr.com
This post is not legal advice
A group of Maryland farmers recently learned an important lesson, sometimes how a federal tax law defines a “farmer” can have large impacts. Brothers donated a conservation easement on a farm, then sold the property. The brothers then claimed the donation on their taxes. The tax court ruled that the brothers did not qualify as “qualified farmers” who could deduct 100 percent of the contribution because their gross incomes from the farm were less than 50 percent of their total gross incomes. The sale of farmland and the sale of the conservation easement did not count as an activity included in the business of farming. The brothers were limited to a 50 percent of the charitable contribution for the conservation easement. Continue reading →
Image of milking parlor by Living Landscape Architecture
This is not a substitute for legal advice.
Recently, the federal district court in Utah found that Utah’s ag-gag law violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (Animal Legal Defense Fund, 2017). Before this, the federal district court in Idaho had found Idaho’s ag-gag law to violate the U.S. Constitution (Idaho is currently appealing that decision before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals). Although these laws potentially violate the Constitution, producers still have options. In many cases, producers can work with producer groups to conduct audits on the operation to determine that current practices are up to date. Producers can make sure employees have the proper training and tools to conduct tasks. Always conduct background checks before hiring new employees, and utilizing employment contracts and employee handbooks can help limit many of the issues that ag-gag laws are designed to address. Continue reading →
I often like to talk, talk, and write about drones/UAVs and today is no exception. Recently, the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled that the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) registration requirements for all unmanned aircraft including hobby aircraft violated federal law. Congress had previously exempted hobby aircraft from any regulations that FAA might develop in the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act. This recent ruling demonstrates the bounds of the FAA’s authority to regulate hobby drones/UAVs, but at the same time leave some unanswered questions. Continue reading →
I am taking a break from highlighting new articles available to discuss a recent court decision. In a recent Wisconsin decision, the court held that a dairy did not have a vested right to use the land for the planned dairy operation. In a prior decision, the court had found a vested right to build barns based on filing a building permit. Although this can create a conflict, ability to build the barns, but not utilize the land for the purpose, Maryland law allows for solutions that would protect landowners in these situations. Continue reading →