Oral arguments are expected to be scheduled in April in Seattle in an “ag-gag” appeal that has pitted Idaho officials against the Animal Legal Defense Fund in a constitutional battle. The case, Animal Legal Defense Fund et al v. Idaho Attorney General Lawrence G. Wasden, landed in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill tossed Idaho’s “ag-gag” statute. Winmill, appointed to the federal bench by President Bill Clinton, struck down the statue on constitutional grounds. Wasden filed the appeal on behalf of the Idaho with 9th Circuit which is headquartered in San Francisco. The case is one of four state laws involving agricultural trespass that are being challenged in federal courts by animal activists’ groups. Idaho’s Chief of Civil Litigation, Steven L. Olsen, contends that the many ALDF and numerous amici curiae “argue vigorously about what the law should be, not what it is.”“The First Amendment does not displace the state’s authority to protect the right of landowners to limit access to the property,” Olsen argues. “Gaining access through misrepresentation infringes on that right. Neither journalists or special interest advocates have any constitutional dispensation from this rule, e.g. no First Amendment exception of ‘high value lies.’ ”
Governer Hutchinson signed Arkansas House Bill 1665 adding a civil cause of action to the state's code that permits individuals to sue over the unauthorized access to non-public areas of commercial property. Of course, animal rights activists called it an ag-gag bill. It applies to the “unauthorized use” of commercial property, meaning businesses, agricultural or timber production operations including buildings and outdoor areas not open to public and even residential properties used for business purposes.Anyone who knowingly gains access to a nonpublic area of such property and engages in an act that “exceeds the person’s authority to enter the nonpublic area is liable to the owner or operator for damages sustained by the owner or operator.”An act that exceeds a person’s authority to enter a non-public area of a commercial property is for one that does not involve business or employment reasons, and without authorization subsequently results in:The employer’s data, papers, records or other documents are removed for uses that damage the employer;Images or sound being recorded in the non-public area for use in a manner that damages the employer; and Unattended cameras or electronic surveillance equipment being placed for unattended use in the non-public areas.
The Iowa Legislature approved a bill Wednesday that caps some damages associated with "nuisance" livestock lawsuits. The bill's floor manager, Rep. Chip Baltimore, R-Boone, said Senate File 447 would reward the good actors by limiting the risk that comes with running farms and animal feeding operations. The limits on lawsuit, which include a cap on some damages, wouldn't apply to habitual offenders or to farms that violate environmental regulations. “This is an agricultural state," Baltimore said. "And we want to foster a healthy agricultural environment so our kids and grandkids can come back and continue the legacy of agriculture. That’s exactly what this bill does.”
A bill moving through the Minnesota Legislature would help beginning farmers overcome one of the biggest barriers they face when trying to launch an agricultural business: access to land. According to farmer-members of the Land Stewardship Project (LSP), such legislation is long overdue in a state where an increasing number of beginning farmers are seeking opportunities in agriculture. The legislation would provide tax credits to Minnesota landowners who rent or sell land to a beginning farmer. After receiving a positive reception from legislators during hearings in the House and Senate Tax Committees, the legislation will be considered for possible inclusion in the overall omnibus tax bill. Various versions of this legislation have been considered during past legislative sessions. Passing the tax credits this year would be a key step toward supporting the next generation of Minnesota farmers, according to Julie Arnold, a Lindstrom, Minn., farmer and LSP policy organizer who testified in both tax committees in support of the legislation.
A proposed $100 annual fee on all Oregon water rights has met with criticism from irrigators who say it would contribute to already mounting financial burdens. Farmers overwhelmingly testified against House Bill 2706, which aims to raise money for water management, during a March 22 hearing before the House Committee on Energy and Environment.Members of the Klamath Water Users Association, for example, are already paying steep costs to comply with the Endangered Species Act and engage in water rights adjudication in the region, said Dave Jensen, a farmer and representative of the group.“Would $100 break a bunch of farmers out there? Probably not, but there is always the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Jensen said. For irrigators with multiple water rights, the bill would cap total fees at $1,000 a year, while municipalities could pay up to $2,500 a year.The money raised would pay for the administrative, technical and field duties performed by the Oregon Water Resources Department, which oversees 89,000 water rights in the state.The bill would effectively impose a discriminatory tax on irrigators and other water users, said Curtis Martin, a rancher and chair of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association’s water resources committee.
The Baker-Polito Administration announced $105,500 in grants to seven marketing campaigns designed to increase awareness and demand for Massachusetts seafood products. The grants were awarded through the Division of Marine Fisheries’ (DMF) Seafood Marketing Pilot Grant Program, a new program created to support the Commonwealth’s fishing and seafood industries. “The Seafood Marketing Pilot Program is designed to leverage the knowledge and connections of local groups and companies to better to promote the sale of sustainably-harvested Massachusetts seafood products,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “By launching this program, we are continuing our commitment to a historically and culturally significant industry that is an integral part of our coastal communities.” Seven organizations were awarded funding for projects to stimulate demand though education, promotion, and other strategies. These organizations have experience and significant ties to the commercial fishing and seafood industries and communities, focus on different species and span geographical areas throughout the state. Funding for this pilot grant program comes from commercial fishing and dealer permits through the Seafood Marketing Program.
Farm Bureau president Harry Ott said poultry growers want to follow state environmental rules, but are concerned about “frivolous’’ appeals of permits they need to operate. H 3929, supported by the S.C. Farm Bureau, says neighbors wanting to stop a chicken or turkey farm must pay $5,000 for the right to file an environmental appeal. Current fees to appeal range from $100 to $500, said environmental lawyers who handle poultry farm cases. If approved by the Legislature, the plan also would prevent state regulators from imposing stringent setback rules that keep chicken or turkey farms away from people’s homes and property. And rules requiring a buffer of trees and shrubs between poultry farms and neighboring homes would be eased. South Carolina’s poultry industry is one of the state’s largest, bringing in more than $12 billion annually, and its boosters have strong support in the Legislature.
New lawsuits over trespass by genetically engineered crops would be authorized in Oregon under proposed legislation that would hold biotech patent holders liable for damages. Supporters of House Bill 2739 say it’s a common sense strategy to remedy problems caused by genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, similar to consumer lawsuits over defective products.“This is not a wild legal grab. We will not be compensated for our angst. We will only be compensated for provable legal damages,” said Sandra Bishop of the Our Family Farms Coalition, which supports HB 2739. Proponents of HB 2739 say there’s nothing new about holding companies liable for their products hurting people or property, but organic and conventional farmers must currently bear the financial burden from GMO crop contamination alone.“Supporters say the legal mechanism of HB 2739 is simple and fair because the liability rests with companies that profit from GMO patents.Complicated searches for a culprit won’t be necessary, since biotech traits can be determined with genetic tests, said Elise Higley, director of the Our Family Farms Coalition. Opponents of the bill argue that pollination among related crops isn’t limited to GMOs, but neighboring farmers have long found practical ways to avoid unwanted crosses.
Landowners are making good progress toward complying with Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton's signature water-quality law, leaving the governor firmly opposed to any legislative attempts to delay or revoke the new standards. There are bills working their way through the Legislature that would delay or weaken the buffer law that passed in 2015 with bipartisan support. Dayton has promised to veto those bills if they reach his desk. Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, who worked to pass the initial buffer bill, said he was surprised Dayton was so emphatically against delaying the implementation deadline by a year. He noted that because the governor vetoed last year's tax bill for an unrelated reason there currently isn't funding to help counties enforce the buffer law. Recent analysis by state agencies found nearly 40 percent of Minnesota waters were polluted or impaired.State officials say three out of four Minnesota counties are already 60 percent or more compliant with the new buffer rules. Counties in northwest and southwest Minnesota appear to have the most work to do to ensure buffers are in place by the November deadline.
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by the Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) against three drainage districts in Northwest Iowa, prompting a huge sigh of relief from many in the agriculture sector. The claim, citing the federal Clean Water Act, was dismissed for lack of standing considering the drainage districts’ limited status under Iowa law. U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Strand for the Northern District of Iowa, held that the state legislature was the proper venue to address issue. “Here, DMWW asserts that it has two property rights: (1) the right to obtain clean water from the Raccoon River, and (2) the right to use its treatment plant and facilities without impairment from pollutants discharged into the Raccoon River,” Strand said. “Even if these could be considered cognizable property rights under state law, DMWW holds those rights as a public entity, making them public property rights not protected by the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause. Moreover, based on the federal law authorities cited by the Iowa Supreme Court, a public entity such as DMWW cannot assert a Fifth Amendment takings claim against another political subdivision of the state. For these reasons, DMWW has no cognizable claim....”