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

Federal District Court Allows North Dakota Farmers Union and Dakota Resource Council to Intervene in Corporate Farming Law Challenge

 

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Photo by Scott Bauer, USDA-NRCS

 

This post is not legal advice.

In a prior post, I discussed the ongoing battle in North Dakota by the North Dakota Farm Bureau challenging the constitutionality of the state’s ban on non-family corporations owning farmland in North Dakota (www.aglaw.umd.edu/blog/ anti-corporate-farming-law-challenged-in-north-dakota). The federal district court in North Dakota recently granted a motion by the North Dakota Farmers Union (NDFU) and the Dakota Resource Council (DRC) to intervene in defense of the law. The district court ruled that both parties had interests in protecting that law that were separate and distinct from North Dakota’s interests. Both parties will be allowed to defend the constitutionality of the ban on non-family corporations owning farmland in North Dakota against the challenge by North Dakota Farm Bureau (North Dakota Farm Bureau, 2017). Continue reading

Preserved Property Owner Does Not Have Standing to Challenge Approved Use by Neighboring Preserved Property Owner

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Photo of Chebeague Island in Maine, source Gkuriger via wikicommons

 

This post is not legal advice

I have written a few times on how the legal principle of standing can impact your ability to bring a lawsuit. In many cases, standing can require showing an injury-in-fact, causation relationship between the injury and the action of the defendant, and likelihood that the injury can be solved by a favorable decision and is not merely speculative. But in some cases, the legislature may limit who can have standing even further. For example, with conservation easements, a state legislature may limit those who can enforce the conservation easement to the holder of the easement (such as a land trust). The Maine Supreme Court recently found landowner of preserved property did not have standing to enforce the easement on neighboring property (Estate of Robbins, 2017). Continue reading

Court of Appeals Finds State’s Right-to-Farm Law is Unconstitutional As Applied

 

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Source USGS via Wikicommons

 

This post is not legal advice.

All fifty states have some version of a right-to-farm law that provides defenses to agricultural producers for lawsuits they are committing a nuisance in his/her operations. In November 2016, the Court of Appeals of Iowa upholds a lower court’s ruling that Iowa’s right-to-farm law is unconstitutional as applied to a neighbor claiming a neighboring hog farm is a nuisance and awarding damages to the neighbor. For those unaware, finding a state’s right-to-law unconstitutional as applied to a neighbor is a unique to Iowa. Iowa’s courts have found the state’s right-to-farm law is unconstitutional when applied to neighbors there first. At this point, no states have followed Iowa’s lead and found their state’s right-to-farm laws unconstitutional as applied to neighbors there first. Continue reading

Ag Law in Review: 2016 Edition

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Photo by Sarah Swenty, USFWS

This post is not legal advice.

Although we have started 2017 off, I want to take a look back at some of the big legal developments in the area of agricultural law. We saw a few important developments in 2016 in the field and will probably see more in 2017 with a change in presidential administrations. Keep reading here, and this site will work to keep you updated on those recent developments in 2017. Continue reading

Federal Magistrate’s Findings in Beef Check-off Case Could Have Lasting Impacts

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Photo Source Keith Weller commons.wikimedia.org

 

This post is not legal advice

Many of you have heard the slogan “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner” in advertising to promote the use of beef in a healthy diet. But if you were a beef producer would you consider this type of generic beef advertising to be a violation of your First Amendment rights? Would you want this generic advertising to promote American beef? Or beef produced in your home state? A federal lawsuit touching on these issues has been progressing in a federal district court in Montana this year, and a federal magistrate judge has recently recommended to the federal court to allow a challenge to the beef advertising be allowed to continue.   Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF) and United Stockgrowers of America brought the action against Secretary Vilsack and USDA.     The beef check-off program created by the Beef Promotion and Research Act of 1985 (Act) and the check-off pays for the generic advertising to promote beef. The Act allows qualified state beef councils to collect the beef check-off dollars. These qualifying state beef councils must agree to follow similar promotional activities as the federal Cattlemen’s Beef Production and Research Board (Board). In Montana, the group is the Montana Beef Council.

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