Justia Agriculture Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Environmental Law
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Butler County Diary, LLC (BCD) requested a permit to install a liquid livestock manure pipeline under a public road. Read Township and Butler County cited two regulations it had adopted governing livestock confinement facilities in denying BCD's request. BCD challenged the regulations, alleging that the regulations were invalid and unenforceable. The district court ruled that the Township had the statutory authority to enact the regulations and that they were not preempted by the Livestock Waste Management Act or Nebraska's Department of Environmental Quality livestock waste control regulations. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Township had the statutory authority to enact the pertinent regulations and the regulations were not preempted by state statute or regulation. View "Butler County Dairy, LLC v. Butler County" on Justia Law

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The Rosenwinkels purchased 160 acres in Kendall County in 1991 and began cattle operations in 1992. Across the road was a farm house, at least 100 years old; in 1991, the tenant moved out and the house was vacant. In 1998, the Toftoys demolished the house. They built a new home, completed in 2004. In 2007, they filed a nuisance action complaining about flies. The Rosenwinkels sought protection under the Farm Nuisance Suit Act (740 ILCS 70/1). The circuit court entered judgment in favor of the Toftoys and ordered remedial measures, including removal of moist bedding and manure. The appellate court affirmed, except as to the remedy. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, reasoning that plaintiffs did not acquire property rights until six years after the farm began operating, beyond the Act’s one-year limitation. By “coming to the nuisance,” plaintiffs were barred from suit. The Act is a “right-to-farm” law to limit nuisance actions and preserve use of farmland. It provides that no farm “shall be or become a private or public nuisance because of any changed conditions in the surrounding area” when the farm has been in existence for one year and was not a nuisance when it began operations. View "Toftoy et al., etc., v. Rosenwinkel et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, cattle producers, appealed the district court's dismissal of their Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 1346(b)(1), complaint, alleging that a government employee negligently caused illness and death within their cattle herd by mandating a toxic plant mixture on pasture land enrolled in a conservation program. The district court held that the allegations of negligence involved the employee's exercise of protected discretion and therefore fell within the discretionary function exception to the FTCA's waiver of sovereign immunity. The court held that the employee's selection of a seeding plan was discretionary but that it was not the type of discretionary action Congress intended to shield from suit. View "Herden, et al. v. United States" on Justia Law

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The National Chicken Council, National Meat Association, and National Turkey Federation petitioned for review of EPA's interpretation of a provision in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The EPA interpreted the provision to mean that certain ethanol plants fired with natural gas and/or biomass were deemed to be in compliance with a reduction requirement indefinitely rather than for a certain period. Petitioners argued that by permitting qualifying ethanol plants to generate Renewable Identification Numberss indefinitely without having to ensure their ethanol met the emissions-reduction requirement, the ethanol plants would produce more ethanol, which would lead to an increase in the demand for corn, which would lead to an increase in the price of corn. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed Petitioner's petition for review for lack of standing, as Petitioners failed to show that a favorable ruling would redress their claimed injuries. View "Nat'l Chicken Council v. EPA " on Justia Law

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In 2001, the Conservancy sold a 100.10 acre farm in Garrard County, Kentucky to the Sims for $60,084, in addition to a $244,939 charitable pledge from the Sims to the Conservancy. The property appraised at $260,400 without the easement at issue, which requires that the land "be retained forever substantially undisturbed in its natural condition and to prevent any use . . . that will significantly impair or interfere with the Conservation Values of the Protected Property." The Conservancy received an annual right to enter and inspect the property. In January 2005, the Conservancy inspected and documented several violations that concerned excavating and filling a sinkhole. The Sims corrected several other violations. The district court granted summary judgment to the Conservancy, concluding that, although the easement allowed some changes to the topography in conjunction with authorized activities, like plowing for commercial agriculture, the easement specifically prohibited the substantial alteration of filling in a sinkhole with an estimated 6,269 cubic yards of fill. The court awarded the Conservancy $99,796.41 in attorneys’ fees and expenses. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. View "The Nature Conservancy, Inc. v. Sims" on Justia Law

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Jensen Family Farms, Inc. ("Jensen") sued the Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District ("District"), alleging that the District's Rules 220, 310, and 1010 were preempted by the federal Clean Air Act ("CAA"), 42 U.S.C. 7401 et seq.; Rules 220 and 310 violated certain provisions of California law; and the Rules violated Jensen's due process rights. Jensen moved for summary judgment and while it's motion was pending, the district court granted the California Air Resources Board's ("CARB"), California's air pollution control agency, motion to intervene. CARB and the District (collectively, "defendants") subsequently filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Jensen appealed the district court's judgment. The principal question in this case, among other questions, was whether the District's rules were preempted by the CAA. The court held that Rules 220 and 310 were not standards or other requirements related to the control of emissions and therefore, not preempted by CAA 209(e). The court also held that Rule 1010 did not apply to any "nonroad engines," as that term was used in the CAA and therefore, was not preempted under section 209(e). The court further held that there was no basis for Jensen's claim under Cal. Code Regs. tit. 17, 93116 or Cal. Code Regs. tit. 13, 2450 et. seq.; that the Rules did not violate Jenson's due process rights where it admitted that the Rules served the legitimate government interest in minimizing air pollution from diesel engines; and the Rules did not violate California Constitution, Article 13A because Jensen waived this argument in its complaint. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment on the pleadings in favor of defendants.View "Jensen Family Farms, Inc. v. Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District, et al." on Justia Law

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A 1935 settlement gives the tribe specific irrigation rights in the Gila River. The government filed another water rights claim on behalf of the tribe in 1979, resulting in a 2006 Arizona Supreme Court decree that the 1935 decree resolved all of the tribe's rights under all theories and that federal court was the proper forum for interpretation and enforcement of that decree. The Court of Federal Claims dismissed a claim against the United States for failure to secure and protect the tribe's water rights. The Federal Circuit affirmed, finding the claim barred by the six-year limitations period in 28 U.S.C. 2501. Rejecting an argument that the tribe was not on notice of its harm until the 2006 decision, the court stated that the plain terms of the 1935 decree indicated that the tribe would have no further rights and that the government was representing multiple parties.View "San Carlos Apache Tribe v. United States" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted after a three-day jury trial of four counts of injecting fluids into deep wells without a permit, in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), 42 U.S.C. 300h-2(b)(2). Defendant was also convicted of one count of making a "materially false" statement in a "matter within the jurisdiction" of the United States, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1001(a)(2). Defendant timely appealed. The court affirmed Counts One through Four under section 300h-2(b)(2) and held that the government was required to prove only that defendant willfully injected water into a well more than eighteen feet deep without a permit, knowing that a permit was required under Idaho law; the reference in 40 C.F.R. 147.650(a)(7) to specific provisions of Idaho law, including those applicable to permitting, make clear that the entire Idaho permitting process was approved and incorporated into the SDWA; and that section 300h-2(b)(2) did not exceed Congress' authority under the Commerce Clause. The court affirmed Count Five under section 1001(a)(2) where defendant made a false statement in a matter within the jurisdiction of the United States. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in holding that its limiting instruction and the stipulation cured any possible prejudice that might have been caused by the three references to "waste" and brief display. The court also held that testimony from a supervisor at the Idaho Department of Agriculture was used for the purpose of showing that defendant injected fluids "willfully" and that the testimony was a small part of the evidence presented to the jury that defendant acted "willfully." Thus, if there was any error in presenting the testimony, the error was harmless. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. King" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, 134 farmers whose crops suffered as a result of the federal Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) use of the herbicide Oust, sued the federal government and Oust's manufacturer (DuPont). Both the jury and the district court allocated 60% of the fault to DuPont and 40% to the federal government. Both the government and DuPont appealed: the court resolved the government's appeal in this opinion and DuPont's appeal in a memorandum disposition filed simultaneously with this opinion. The court held that it lacked subject mater jurisdiction over plaintiffs' Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 2402, claims because plaintiffs filed their lawsuit one day after the FTCA's statute of limitations had run. Therefore, the court held that the district court erred by not dismissing the claims against the federal government. View "Adams, et al. v. United States, et al." on Justia Law

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Defendant Robert St. Onge, president and member of Winterwood, operated a composting facility at his farm that accepted solid waste and converted it into compost for sale. The Department of Environmental Protection filed a land use complaint against Winterwood related to the discharge of pollutants from its composting operation into a nearby brook. The court entered a contempt order that required Winterwood to cease the discharge of pollutants into state waters. On the Department's motion to enforce the contempt order, the court ordered that Winterwood was immediately prohibited from receiving any other composting material. Later, four different waste companies delivered waste to Winterwood for composting. The state filed a criminal complaint and summons, charging St. Onge as principal of Winterwood with contempt. In superior court, St. Onge signed a jury trial waiver. The court adjudicated St. Onge to be in contempt as a Class D crime and sentenced him to six months in jail. St. Onge appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed all aspects of the judgment with the exception of the Class D modification. Because an adjudication of contempt with punitive sanctions is not a Class D crime, the judgment was modified accordingly. View "State v. St. Onge" on Justia Law