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

Forthcoming Fact Sheet To Cover Legal Issues With Saving Cover Crop Seed For Replanting

 

Harvesting wheat near Pendleton, Oregon.

Image by Oregon State University, Flickr.com

I’m taking a break from legal issues to highlight forthcoming articles that might interest some of you.  I’ve gotten the opportunity to work with Dale Morris, Turfgrass and Seed, Program Manager with Maryland Department of Agriculture, and Dr. Bob Kratochvil, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, University of Maryland, to let Maryland producers understand legal issues associated with using saved seeds to plant a cover crop. 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

Forthcoming Article: Adapting to the Changing World of Biotechnology: Syngenta AG MIR162 Corn Litigation as Regulation-By-Litigation

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In late 2016, I got the opportunity to speak at the Texas A&M Law Review’s Symposium on Agriculture, Intellectual Property, and Feeding the World in the 21st Century. During the symposium, I spoke on a panel with Andrew Morton, Morton Farms, and Prof. Joanna Sax, Professor of Law, California Western School of Law, and the panel was moderated by my former ag law professor, Drew Kershen, Earl Sneed Centennial Professor of Law Emeritus, University of Oklahoma, College of Law. Continue reading

Plants Added to Maryland Invasive Plant Species List

 

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Purple Wintercreeper.  Image by Bloomington Urban Woodland Project via flickr.com 

This post is not legal advice.

 

On February 13, 2017, the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) announced that new invasive plants classified as Tier 1 and Tier 2. In 2016, MDA updated the invasive plant species regulations to define what is considered a Tier 1 and Tier 2 invasive plant and when to grow invasive plant species in Maryland. The updated regulations also provided guidance on listing new plant species as either Tier 1 or Tier 2 and the procedure for delisting an invasive plant species from Tier 1 or Tier 2. Continue reading

Agency Not Given Third Opportunity to Make Determination by Federal Court

 

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Photo by paciana via wikicommons.

 

This post is not legal advice. 

 

2017 has started off with a few court decisions involving agricultural law, and I’ve discussed a few of those decisions. In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously (8-0) that a determination by the Army Corps of Engineers that a property contained “a waters of the United States” was reviewable under the Administrative Procedures Act (Hawkes Co., 2016). The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Eighth Circuit and sent the case back to the federal district court in Minnesota. Recently, the federal district court granted motions by the Hawkes Co. barring the Army Corps of Engineers from exercising Clean Water Act jurisdiction over the property. 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