Hello, readers! We hope you are all staying safe and healthy. Understandably, news related to agricultural law seems to have slowed down a little bit over the last few weeks as both the federal and state governments have focused mainly on addressing the unfolding COVID-19 outbreak. That being said, there have been a few notable ag law developments you might be interested in.
Federal government extends the tax deadline. The IRS announced on March 21 that the deadline for filing or paying 2019 federal income taxes will be extended to July 15, 2020.
Ohio Coronavirus Legislation. The Ohio General Assembly quickly passed House Bill 197 on Wednesday March 25, 2020. HB 197 originally just involved changes to tax laws, but amendments were added to address the current situation. Amendments that made it into the final bill include provisions for education—from allowing school districts to use distance learning to make up for instruction time, to waiving state testing. Other important amendments make it easier to receive unemployment, move the state tax filing deadline to July 15, extend absentee voting, allow recently graduated nurses to obtain temporary licenses, etc. Of particular note to those involved in agriculture, HB 197 extends the deadlines to renew licenses issued by state agencies and political subdivisions. If you have a state license that is set to expire, you will have 90 days after the state of emergency is lifted to renew the license. HB 197 is available here. A list of all the amendments related to COVID-19 is available here.
Proposed changes to hunting and fishing permits in Ohio. In non-COVID news, Ohio House Bill 559 was introduced on March 18. HB 559 would allow grandchildren to hunt or fish on their grandparents’ land without obtaining licenses or permits. In addition, the bill would give free hunting and fishing licenses or permits to partially disabled veterans. You can get information on the bill here.
EPA simplifies approach to pesticides and endangered species. Earlier this month, the U.S. EPA released its “revised method” for determining whether pesticides should be registered for use. Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), federal agencies must consider whether an action (in this case, registration of a pesticide) will negatively impact federally listed endangered species. EPA is authorized to make decisions involving pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The revised method consists of a three-step process. First, EPA will consider whether use of the pesticide “may affect” or conversely, have no effect on the listed species. If no effect is found, EPA can register the pesticide. On the other hand, if EPA finds that the pesticide may affect the endangered species, it must examine whether the pesticide is “likely to adversely affect” the species. In this second step, if EPA decides that the pesticide may affect the endangered species, but is not “likely to adversely affect” the species, then the agency may register the pesticide with the blessing of the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) or the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Conversely, if EPA finds that the pesticide is likely to adversely affect the species, it must move on to step three, where it must work with FWS or NMFS to more thoroughly examine whether an adverse effect will “jeopardize” the species’ existence or “destroy or adversely modify its designated critical habitat.” The revised method is meant to simplify, streamline, and add clarity to EPA’s decision-making.
EPA publishes rule on cyazofamid tolerances. Continuing the EPA/pesticide theme, on March 18, EPA released the final rule for tolerances for residues of the fungicide cyazofamid in or on commodities including certain leafy greens, ginseng, and turnips.
Administration backs off RFS. In our last edition of the Ag Law Harvest, we mentioned that the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals had handed a win to biofuels groups by deciding that EPA did not have the authority to grant three waivers to two small refineries in 2017. By granting the waivers, the EPA allowed the refineries to ignore the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and not incorporate biofuels in with their oil-based fuels. The Tenth Circuit decision overturned this action. The Trump administration has long defended EPA’s action, so that’s why it’s so surprising that the administration did not appeal the court’s decision by the March 25 deadline.
Right to Farm statute protects contract hog operation. If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you may recall that many nuisance lawsuits have been filed regarding large hog operations in North Carolina. In Lewis v. Murphy Brown, LLC, plaintiff Paul Lewis, who lives near a farm where some of Murphy Brown’s hogs are raised, sued the company for nuisance and negligence, claiming that the defendant’s hogs made it impossible for him to enjoy the outdoors and caused him to suffer from several health issues. Murphy Brown moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the nuisance claim should be disqualified under North Carolina’s Right to Farm Act, and that the negligence claim should be barred by the statute of limitations. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina made quick work of the negligence claim, agreeing with Murphy Brown that the statute of limitations had passed. North Carolina’s Right to Farm Act requires a plaintiff to show all of the following: that he is the legal possessor of the real property affected by the nuisance, that the real property is located within one-half mile of the source of the activity, and that the action is filed within one year of the establishment of the agricultural operation or within one year of the operation undergoing a fundamental change. Since the operation was established in 1995 and the suit was not brought until 2019, and no fundamental change occurred, the court determined that Lewis’s claim was barred by the Right to Farm Act. Since neither negligence or nuisance was found, the court agreed with Murphy Brown and dismissed the case.
Tags: ag law harvest, taxes, tax, hunting, fishing license, pesticides, endangered species, EPA, renewable fuel standard, RFS
With summer in full swing, Ohio’s poor planting season won’t dampen the desires of those who want to use farmland for recreational activities like fishing or riding ATVs. And while we worry over the washouts in so many farm fields, an archaeological buff recently explained that those wash outs provide a good opportunity to find arrowheads and other relics. The fact that a field wasn’t planted didn’t stop a hot air balloon operator from asking a farmer if he could land in the unplanted field recently. Even when the land is not highly productive, Ohio farmland is always appealing to recreational enthusiasts for these and other types of recreational activities.
But what if a farmer doesn’t want recreational enthusiasts on the property or doesn’t want the risk of potential liability for a recreational user? A few of our resources provide guidance for these situations, which we can address in two important questions:
- Do you not want people engaging in recreational activities on your farm? If so, then take a look at our law bulletin on The Do’s and Don’ts of Dealing with Trespassers on the Farm. If you don’t give a person permission to come onto the farm for recreational purposes, the person is trespassing if he or she chooses to enter the property without your permission. But be aware that a landowner can’t intentionally put a trespasser in harm’s way and in certain situations, can be liable for a trespasser who suffers harm on the property. Know the legal rules for dealing with trespassers so that you can protect your property without risking liability. We explain these rules and situations in the law bulletin.
- Are you okay with letting a person use your farm for recreational activities? If so, you’ll want to read our law bulletin on Okay to Play: Ohio Recreational User Statute Limits Liability for Hunters, Snowmobilers, and More. Ohio’s Recreational User Statute offers immunity to landowners who allow recreational uses, but only if the landowner meets the four conditions of the law. A landowner of nonresidential premises who gives permission to a person to engage in recreational activities without charging a fee doesn’t have the traditional legal duty to keep the recreational user safe from harm. Our law bulletin explains each of the statute’s important conditions in detail so that a landowner can qualify for its liability protection.
Like the weather, managing the risk of recreational users and trespassers on the farm is a constant challenge for farmers. But unlike the weather, a landowner can effectively control this type of risk. When someone shows up to fish, ride ATVs, hunt arrowheads or land a balloon on the farm, be ready by having a good understanding of the laws that apply to recreational activities on the farm.
Tags: Ohio Recreational User's Statute, recreational immunity, trespass, trespassing law, hunting, ATV, snowmobiling