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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USDA Did Not Have the Discretion to Implement New Program That Benefited Farmers: When Does The Agency Have Discretion to Implement a New Program?

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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

Baltimore City Restrictions on Food Trucks Unconstitutional for Vagueness

 

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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

Wyoming’s Data Collection Trespass Statute Violates the First Amendment of the Constitution

 

Oxbow Bend Sunrise (Grand Teton National Park)

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

When is a Farmer Not a Farmer? Tax Court Case Highlights Complexity in Federal Tax Law

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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

Utah’s Ag-Gag Law Violates First Amendment But Producers Still Have Options

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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

FAA Overstepped Authority When Requiring Hobby Operators to Register UAVs, But What About Commercial?

 

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Image by Maurico Lima via flickr.com

 

This post is not legal advice.

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

Dairy Able to Build Barns, But What About Using Property For A Dairy?

 

Fall Colors in Door County

Photo by Elvis Kennedy via flickr.com

 

This post is not legal advice.  

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

Court of Appeals Rules Against Animal Ag Reporting Exemption in Two Environmental Laws

 

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Image by Lynn Betts, USDA-NRCS

 

This is not a substitute for legal advice.

The smells of livestock are common if you live on a farm or next to a farm. If livestock numbers reach certain sizes, then two federal environmental laws, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 (EPCRA) may require the producer to report the release of hazardous substances to the National Response Center. With animal operations, the releases have been focused on ammonia and hydrogen sulfide as manure is broken down. In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed an exemption from the reporting requirements for all animal feeding operations from CERCLA and EPCRA but required larger animal operations to continue reporting under EPCRA. Environmental and animal welfare groups challenged this exemption. The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit recently struck down the exemption. Continue reading

Does One Mare Create An Ag Lease?

 

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Image via flickr.com by Matt Northam

 

This post is not legal advice. 

As we draw closer to summer, I will start reminding many of you that it’s the time to consider terminating a farmland lease to comply with state law. In many states, farmland leases require more than 30 days notice to terminate without a written lease stating a different requirement. For ag leases in Maryland, this means that notice to terminate needs to be given by June 31. But what makes an ag lease and ag lease?  The Iowa Supreme Court has found that one old mare on six acres is not enough to create an agricultural lease that would require longer notice to terminate the lease. Continue reading