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Landowners get lowdown on ag law at AgriLife Extension program

200-plus attend new ‘Owning Your Piece of Texas’ program in San Antonio

Writer: Paul Schattenberg, 210-859-5752, paschattenberg@ag.tamu.edu

Contact: Tiffany Dowell Lashmet, 806-677-5668, tdowell@tamu.edu

Dr. Blake Bennett, 972-231-5362, blake.bennett@ag.tamu.edu

SAN ANTONIO – What is my liability if someone is injured while hunting on my property?  How can I get a special tax use valuation for my property? Are my legal responsibilities different if I have cattle in a “closed range” county?

These and many other questions were addressed at the recent “Owning Your Piece of Texas: Top Laws Texas Landowners Need to Know,” program in San Antonio attended by more than 200 landowners from throughout southern Texas.

Attendees at the information booths set up by program partners AgWorkers Insurance and Capital Farm Credit. (Texas A&M AgriLife Communications photo by Paul Schattenberg)

The free program was coordinated by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service offices in Atascosa, Bexar, Guadalupe and Wilson counties in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, AgWorkers Insurance, Capital Farm Credit and the Southern Extension Risk Management Education organization. It was held in the Performing Arts auditorium of Palo Alto College.

Tiffany Dowell Lashmet, AgriLife Extension agricultural law specialist based in Amarillo, was the main presenter. Other presenters were Jim Spivey of Spivey Valenciano PLLC  and Dr. Blake Bennett, AgriLife Extension economist, Dallas.

The program also included AgriLife Extension agents Bryan Davis, Dale Rankin, Jeff Hanselka, Sam Womble and Travis Franke, who were available to answer any additional questions attendees might have related to land ownership or management in their respective counties.

More than 200 landowners attended the Owning Your Piece of Texas program held at Palo Alto College in San Antonio. (Texas A&M AgriLife Communications photo by Paul Scahttenberg)

“This was a great opportunity for landowners from different areas to come together and get a lot of helpful information and good guidance from experienced legal experts at no cost,” said Hanselka, agriculture and natural resources agent, Guadalupe County. “It’s rare for many of these attendees to have access to such a comprehensive program on agricultural law presented by such excellent speakers.”

Lashmet spoke to the audience on a variety of topics ranging from property ownership and access to leasing and liability issues and fence and water law.

Tiffany Dowell Lashmet introduces the audience to basic fence law. (Texas A&M AgriLife Communications photo by Paul Schattenberg)

“Many people involved in farming, ranching and agriculture are unaware of the type and number of legal issues that can arise from land ownership,” she said. “Often people are excited about starting an agricultural operation but overlook the potential legal ramifications, especially if they’re inviting other people onto their property for something like hunting, or possibly agricultural or nature tourism.

Lashmet said the goal of the program is to help educate landowners on what legal issues might come up and learn about some of the steps they can take to protect themselves.

Spivey shared his courtroom experiences in cases related to eminent domain, a process by which a government entity can claim private land for public use.

“Eminent domain has always been a serious issue for landowners in Texas and will likely be even more of an issue in the future,” he said. “It’s important for landowners to know under what circumstances their land can be taken and how to ensure they receive adequate compensation for that land.”

Jim Spivey presents on eminent domain. Eminent domain issues more typically affect rural landowners.  (Texas A&M AgriLife Communications photo by Paul Schattenberg)

He said rural landowners are the people most impacted by eminent domain issues related to land being taken for uses such as roads, transmission lines, oil and gas pipelines and public projects.

Bennett spoke about property taxes and special tax-use valuation. He addressed agricultural-use valuation, open-space valuation and wildlife management-use valuation and their requirements.

Bennett said his primary efforts through AgriLife Extension relating to these topics has been to get real estate agents more interested and involved in their rural property buyers’ goals for the property they plan to purchase. To date, he has presented 48 programs to more than 1,600 real estate agents statewide.

Dr. Blake Bennett speaks on agricultural valuation and its requirements. (Texas A&M AgriLife Communications photo by Paul Schattenberg)

“I’m focusing mainly on real estate agents getting to know more about the aspirations of those clients who want to be small-acreage producers but only have a vague notion of ‘10 acres and a dream’ to guide them,” Bennett said.“We’re trying to get real estate agents to work with clients in the planning stages — before they even begin a property search.”

Bennett said if real estate agents get a better idea of what their clients have in mind as a long-term goal for their property at the outset, they can help the clients find the land they really want — and possibly point them toward a special-use valuation or some other economically advantageous opportunity.

Richard Dawson of Falfurrias, who owns about 2,600 acres, some of which he leases out for hunting, was among the attendees.

“I came to the program because I was interested in knowing more about what my liability issues may be, even though I have a third party who handles the hunting-lease portion of my operation,” he said. “We also use about 100 acres of the land for cattle, so I was interested in learning more about my legal responsibilities and potential liability in the event any cattle get out and damage someone else’s property.”

Cattle grazing in East Texas

The legal responsibilities relating to cattle in open and closed range areas of the state and water law were also among the topics addressed at the program. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo)

Another attendee, Barry Hevner, who owns about 35 acres in southeast Bexar County, said he came to the program to learn more about open range and fencing issues.

“The speakers were really informative, and I already got some good advice on how I can help limit my personal liability by putting some properly worded signage on the gate leading to my property,” he said.

Hevner also said he was interested in knowing more about eminent domain.

“With all the new people coming into Bexar County and all the new growth and development, I thought it was a good idea to get more information on this topic and how it might affect me and other landowners.”

Another attendee interested in eminent domain issues was Martha Freeman from San Saba County.

“It is important that people understand eminent domain and what they are entitled to for their property,” she said. “My husband Joe and I came to the program to learn about that and also understand water law since there’s water on the property and we’d like to know our rights and any if there are limitations on water use.”

According Lashmet, this was only the second time she has presented the Owning Your Piece of Texas program, although she has presented at numerous agricultural law-related programs throughout Texas for AgriLife Extension.

Lashmet’s “Owning Your Piece of Texas” booklet. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo)

“The Owning Your Piece of Texas program was just unveiled this year,” she said. “We recently did one in Lubbock that had about 40 people, then took the program to San Antonio. We’ll be headed next to Crockett on June 28, Cat Spring on Aug. 26 and College Station on Sept.12.”

Program attendees also receive the 131-page “Owning Your Piece of Texas” handbook  Lashmet has written.

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New varieties, research to highlight July 18 potato field day near Springlake

Writer: Kay Ledbetter, 806-677-5608, skledbetter@ag.tamu.edu
Contact: Dr. Isabel Vales, isabel.vales@tamu.edu

SPRINGLAKE – The annual Texas Potato Breeding and Variety Development Program Field Day, hosted by Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the Barrett Potato Farms, will be July 18.

Producers look at different varieties at the 2018 Texas A&M Potato Breeding and Variety Development Program Field Day on the Barrett Potato Farm. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Kay Ledbetter)

The program is free, and lunch will be provided.

Participants will first assemble at the Springlake Potato Sales, Texas Highway 385 between Littlefield and Springlake, at 10 a.m. and then go to the field, said Dr. Isabel Vales, Texas A&M AgriLife Research potato breeder.

This year there will be around 150 different potato genotypes on display, mainly fresh market russets and processing chippers, but also reds and specialties, Vales said.

Some of the topics to be discussed will include updates on recent potato variety releases, such as Vanguard russet, submitted in 2018, licensees, grants and priorities. Participants will also hear updates on current research in the areas of zebra chip, heat tolerance, soil health and genomics-assisted breeding.

For more information, contact Vales at isabel.vales@tamu.edu, Douglas Scheuring at 979-324-2564, or Jeffrey Koym at 806-777-2412.

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Owning Your Own Piece of Texas workshop set for June 28 in Crockett

Media contact: Blair Fannin, 979-845-2259, b-fannin@tamu.edu

CROCKETT – The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service will present “Owning Your Piece of Texas: Top Laws Texas Landowners Need to Know” on June 28 in Crockett.

This free program is designed to educate landowners about the legal issues they may face. It will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the AgriLife Extension office for Houston County at 716 Wells St. in Crockett.

“Agriculture business ventures provide freedom, challenges and opportunities like few other business ventures,” said Jo Smith, AgriLife Extension agent, Houston County. “Entrance is relatively easy as anyone can buy livestock or plant an acre of some crop to get in the business of raising food and fiber.

“But understanding the laws and regulations around land ownership is a more difficult matter. This workshop will provide some guidance into the issues dealing with land, water and wealth.”

The speaker will be Tiffany Dowell Lashmet, AgriLife Extension specialist in agricultural law, Amarillo. She will address the topics of landowner liability, fence law, water law and more.

Lunch is included and sponsored by AgWorkers Insurance and Heritage Land Bank. Participants will receive the “Owning Your Piece of Texas” handbook, outlining some of the important laws of which landowners should be aware.

Register at https://agriliferegister.tamu.edu/Landowners.

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AgriLife Extension professional food manager certification training July 11-12 in Lubbock

Writer: Susan Himes, 325-657-7315, Susan.Himes@ag.tamu.edu

Contact: Kay Davis, 806-775-1740, Kay.Davis@ag.tamu.edu

LUBBOCK —The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service is offering a professional food manager certification training course July 11-12 at the AgriLife Extension office for Lubbock County, 916 Main St., Suite 401.

The course will run 8 a.m.-5 p.m, both days.  A $125 fee includes training materials and a national food manager certification examination. The food manager’s certification is valid throughout the state for five years.

To register, call the AgriLife Extension office at 806-775-1740 by June 25.

The course will cover:

  • Identifying potentially hazardous foods and common errors in food handling.
  • Preventing contamination and cross-contamination of food.
  • Teaching and encouraging personal hygiene for employees.
  • Complying with government regulations.
  • Maintaining clean utensils, equipment and surroundings.
  • Controlling pests.

Under the Texas Department of State Health Services jurisdiction, each food establishment is required to have one certified foodservice manager employed.

“The program is designed to prepare foodservice managers to pass the certification examination, and it will provide valuable education regarding the safe handling of food,” said Kay Davis, AgriLife Extension community and health agent, Lubbock County.

“Almost 50 cents of every dollar Americans spend on food is spent on meals prepared away from home,” Davis said. “Therefore, careful attention to food safety is important to help keep customers safe and satisfied.”

She said foodborne illnesses can cost an establishment thousands of dollars in lost wages, insurance and medical bills, so knowledge of how to prevent foodborne illness is crucial.

According to Davis, the benefits of improved food safety include:

  • Increased customer satisfaction.
  • Improved relationships with health officials.
  • Prevention of bad publicity and lawsuits due to foodborne illness.

“Statistics indicate that foodborne illness continues to be a health issue in the U.S.,” Davis said. “Each year, one in six Americans will become sick, 128,000 will become hospitalized and 3,000 will die due to foodborne illness.”

For more information about the Professional Food Manager Certification Training, “Food Safety: It’s Our Business,” call Davis at 806-775-1740 or visit https://foodsafety.tamu.edu.

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Memorial services set for Dr. Dudley Smith

COLLEGE STATION – Dr. Dudley Smith, a professor emeritus and former administrator in Texas A&M AgriLife Research, then known as the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, died June 8.

Dr. Dudley Smith

The family will receive friends from 5-7 p.m. June 12 at Callaway-Jones Funeral Center in Bryan. There will be an inurnment at 10 a.m. June 13 at College Station City Cemetery, 2530 Texas Ave. South. A memorial service will follow at 11 a.m. at Christ United Methodist Church, 4201 Texas Highway 6.

Smith served Texas A&M University System for 38 years, retiring in 2006.

In 1968, he established a weed research program in cotton in the High Plains at the Texas A&M Center at Lubbock, with emphasis on weed biology and competition, herbicide efficacy and environmental studies.

He moved to College Station in 1973 to serve as assistant director and later associate director of the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station until 1996. He provided administrative oversight for statewide research programs in crops, livestock and natural resources.

Over the course of two decades, he dealt with research federal compliance reviews, hosted animal rights visitors and oversaw regulatory programs in honeybees and feed and fertilizer compliance. He also served as board chairman for international research consortiums on sorghum and later, peanuts.

In 1996, Smith assumed a faculty position in the department of soil and crop sciences at Texas A&M University. He worked closely with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture and commodity groups to obtain pesticide registrations for specialty crops.

Much of his work culminated in a book, “The Crops of Texas,” which described the production, pest problems and marketing niches of 200 crops of economic importance to Texas and southwestern agriculture.

Other research included sustainable agriculture and integrated pest management, economic impacts of chemical use and international agriculture. He published over 100 scientific articles and papers, plus invited presentations at European conferences.

Smith received achievement awards for his classroom teaching, and he was a member of several societies. He was selected as a Fellow in the American Society of Agronomy.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics and masters in agronomy at the University of Maryland, a doctorate in weed science/crop science at Michigan State University in 1968, and an executive MBA from the University of Houston in 1982.

Upon retirement, Smith and his wife Angela endowed several scholarships for graduate student travel in agronomy and horticulture, along with funding a fellowship for a doctoral student and undergraduate scholarships.

In lieu of flowers, a memorial may be sent to the Texas A&M Foundation, for account 57967 – Graduate Student Travel Awards in the soil and crop science department. 401 George Bush Drive, College Station, TX 77840-2811.

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Range, pasture management program set June 20 in Coleman

Writer: Susan Himes, 325-657-7315, Susan.Himes@ag.tamu.edu
Contact: Michael A. Palmer, 325-625-4519, m-palmer@tamu.edu

COLEMAN — The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service will hold a range and pasture management program from 5:15-9 p.m. June 24 at the Bill Franklin Center, located at the intersection of Fifth Ave. and Texas Highway 206 south of Coleman.

Three Texas Department of Agriculture continuing education units are available for licensed pesticide applicators – one laws and regulations, one integrated pest management and one general.

The cost is $15 if preregistered by June 20; $30 after that date. RSVP to the AgriLife Extension office in Coleman County at 325-625-4519. The fee is payable at the door and includes dinner.  

“We’re very excited about the lineup for our 2019 Pasture and Range Management Program,” said Michael Palmer, AgriLife Extension agent for Coleman County. “This evening course will cover a range of important pest, rangeland and management topics to help our local landowners.”

Registration and the barbeque dinner will start at 5:15 p.m.; the program will begin at 5:45 p.m.

Topics and speakers include:

  • Plant Identification Contest – Palmer.
  • Herbicides for Weed and Brush Control – Sam Eads, Corteva AgriScience, Abilene.
  • Stocking Rates and Forage Management – Dr. Morgan Treadwell, AgriLife Extension rangeland specialist, San Angelo.
  • Pesticide Laws and Regulation – Jason Jones, Texas Department of Agriculture, Abilene.

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Texas Crop and Weather Report – June 11, 2019

High Plains crops suffer after too much moisture at planting time

Cotton seedling emergence

AMARILLO – While rainfall is important for crop production, the amounts falling across the High Plains have negatively impacted row crops and agricultural operations, with potential effects extending into the summer growing season, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

Dr. Jourdan Bell, AgriLife Extension agronomist in Amarillo, said a significant amount of this year’s cotton has been affected by extensive rainfall during the month of May.

While crops all across the Texas High Plains have been affected, the northeast Panhandle has suffered to the largest degree, Bell said. There are reports of rainfall in excess of 15 inches on some fields in that region since May 1.

“We are receiving daily reports of unplanted cotton fields, fields of both cotton and corn that are failing due to saturated conditions, poor stands and poor vigor,” she said.

Bell said the growth in cotton infrastructure throughout the region in response to an expansion of cotton acreage in the past year or so will certainly be affected by the rainfall.

Planting stopped across most of the northern High Plains in the past two weeks for all commodities, so all crops are behind average, and some of the intended crops will not be planted. At this point, it is too late to plant cotton due to the narrow production window, which is restricted by insurance dates and the timing of the first fall freeze, she said.

First true leaf on cotton

Even though early stages of growth were stressed, some cotton is starting to the first true leaves develop and while severely delayed, rapid growth should occur with hot, dry conditions. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Kay Ledbetter)

“I had one producer tell me this will be more economically devastating than the drought of 2011.”

Another issue is many producers unable to get in fields to plant have already incurred expenses such as preplant fertilizer and herbicide costs, Bell said. The heavy rains may have now leached the fertilizer or washed the herbicide away.

“But even with concerns these inputs may have been lost in many cases, it’s not a guarantee,” she said. “Producers will need to be cautious about the plant-back intervals required for herbicides that were used with the original crop when determining their alternative crops.”

Also, soil crusting has occurred in some areas, magnifying germination issues and poor stand establishment, Bell said. Where the moisture permitted the crust to soften and allowed the seedlings to emerge and establish, growth has been slowed by abnormally cool conditions. And now, there are seedling diseases in many cotton fields.

Some corn fields planted in late April and early May during the break in rains have experienced extended periods of waterlogging, she said. Under extended saturated conditions, oxygen becomes depleted and the roots are not able to respire and take up water and nutrients. With root growth either slowed or stopped, these fields may be predisposed to more problems later in the season, such as nutrient deficiencies, water stress or even lodging.

And when the drying process does start, Bell said, if producers get in too big of a hurry and plant in overly wet fields, equipment can cause soil compaction. The planter’s furrow openers can cause compaction to the furrow side walls, which also restricts root development, resulting in symptoms of nutrient deficiency and water stress later in the season.

Even with wheat, which is almost ready for grain harvest, problems can occur due to the heavy and extended rains, she said. Precipitation at this time can enhance wheat test weights and yields, but extended amounts can prevent fields from drying down and cause some lodging.  

“Also, producers who had contracts for wheat silage are not able to cut,” Bell said. “While they still have the opportunity to cut those wheat fields for grain, at current prices silage was a much more profitable option for many producers.”

Producers now are looking for secondary crop alternatives, she said. Some considerations are soybeans, grain sorghum, short-season corn and sunflowers. However, Bell cautioned again that preplant herbicides will be an important consideration as producers make this decision.

While some situations are dire, she said not all is lost.

“On the brighter side of things, dryland acres that have not been planted will have a good soil moisture profile, and that will be very beneficial for late-planted grain sorghum and sunflowers,” Bell said.

“And, we are starting to see the first true leaves appear in some cotton fields, so hopefully over the next few weeks, with warmer and drier conditions, we will see cotton development progress where it was successfully planted.”

The 12 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Districts

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

CENTRAL: Rains continued to delay planting and harvesting hay. Producers baled hay where they could. Livestock were doing well. Wheat and oat harvests began in some areas and was completed in others. Corn was in the silking stage. A lot of wheat and oats were harvested. Cotton was emerging. Pasture conditions continued to be good. Daytime high temperatures were in the low- to mid-90s with a heat index nearing 100. Pastures and rangelands were doing well. Nearly all counties reported adequate soil moisture levels.

ROLLING PLAINS: Producers saw a wet and windy week. Producers began cutting wheat and planting cotton. Some fields still had standing water. High numbers of grasshoppers started their first wave in some areas. Livestock were looking well, but some producers were fighting pink eye in sheep and cattle. Forages were in good condition, and stock tanks were full.

COASTAL BEND: Rainfall was received over most of the reporting area, which brought soil moisture levels up in pastures and on cropland. Wharton County, specifically, reported some flooding rain, which has impacted corn, cotton, rice and soybean fields, with rice fields still submerged and severe damage to rice field levees being reported. Severe nutrient leaching is expected in corn and cotton. Otherwise, crops are progressing well throughout the region. Some spraying for fleahoppers in cotton and headworms in grain sorghum has been occurring. Some sugarcane aphid pressure has been observed and cotton aphids have been an issue in many cotton fields. Haymaking was in full swing with a large first cutting. Range and pasture conditions continued to be good. Livestock were in excellent shape, but the prices were waning.

EAST: Temperatures were higher across the district. Subsoil and topsoil were mostly adequate with a few counties reporting surplus. Hay production was in full swing for much of the district though a few areas were slowed by rainfall. Cherokee County reported some producers were cutting hay as silage due to more rain. Pasture and rangeland conditions were good to excellent. Vegetable harvesting was in full swing in Polk County. Cattle were doing fair to good in most counties. Houston County reported an extremely high hornfly population. Wild pigs were very active in Upshur and Trinity counties.

SOUTH PLAINS: The district received 1-2.5 inches of rain. Subsoil and topsoil moisture levels were adequate to surplus in many areas. Pastures were in excellent shape, but cotton was struggling with so much water and flooding. High winds and sand caused some replanting of cotton. Producers will plant and replant as soon as they can access fields, but the planting window was near closing. Corn, peanuts, sorghum, winter wheat, pastures and rangelands were in good condition. Cattle were in good condition.

PANHANDLE: Conditions were unseasonably cool with rainfall throughout the reporting period. Many acres of irrigated wheat were chopped, baled or swathed down. Cotton acres suffered from the wet weather, and a large percentage of the crop rotted shortly after germination. Due to time restraints, many farmers decided to not replant cotton.   

NORTH: Soil moisture was adequate to surplus across the district. Several counties received trace amounts of rain up to 4 inches. Some storms brought winds in excess of 70 mph and hail damage, though there were no reports of crop damage. Pastures and hay meadows looked great but were too wet to get into. Some producers were able to cut hay. Wheat and oat harvests began in some areas. So far, yield reports were 45-75 bushels of wheat per acre and oats at 70-80 bushels per acre. The majority of the corn was in the early reproductive stage. Sorghum and soybeans were looking better as fields dried out some. Cows and calves were doing well, but fly numbers were high and causing stress. Horn flies in livestock were also abundant. Winter grasses finished, and summer grasses were coming on and looking much better.

FAR WEST: Temperature highs were just over 100 degrees with lows in the mid-50s. Rains were constant in many counties. Some rain totals averaged up to 3 inches while other areas received less than a quarter inch. There were some severe storms and hail. The soil was too saturated to plant cotton seed in some areas. In drier areas, cotton planting was moving along as the deadline came. Producers experienced some trouble establishing stands due to rain, crusting and soil insects. Corn and sorghum were coming along with very few issues. A first treatment for pecan nut casebearers was sprayed, and growers were monitoring traps. One producer reported a big catch and was preparing to spray a second treatment. Jumbo grasshoppers were reported in eastern parts of the district and producers were attempting to control them. Weeds were becoming an issue in urban environments. Warm-season grasses were starting to take off. Many cow/calf producers were preparing to wean their calf crop.

WEST CENTRAL: Additional rainfall was reported. Wet conditions continued to stall fieldwork. Wheat harvest was underway but slowed by wet conditions. Cotton planting was behind schedule. Rangelands and pastures were in excellent condition. Sorghum and hay crops were in excellent condition. Pecans were off to a promising start. Livestock looked healthy with very good grazing conditions. Cattle market trends were steady on most classes of cattle with the exception of new crop calves weighing 500-800 pounds selling $2 to $4 lower per hundredweight. Body condition was the driving force amid a very fleshy new crop of calves. The corn market was volatile due to weather-related planting issues in the Midwest and ongoing trade dispute.

SOUTHEAST: The hay harvest was underway in Walker County. Brazos County received lots of sunshine. Some areas of the district were getting dry. Timely showers brought pastures in Grimes County a much-needed drink. Chambers County received 5-7 inches of rain. Most water was running off, but the soil was still very wet. Galveston County received heavy rains, which resulted in flooding in most areas. Livestock were in good health. Rice was planted except for a few organic fields. Some pastures and fields were completely submerged due to the excessive rains. Rangeland and pasture ratings were from excellent to poor with good being most common. Soil-moisture levels ranged from adequate to surplus with adequate being most common.

SOUTHWEST: Most counties reported much-needed rain. The rain benefited corn, sorghum and cotton. Vegetation was in abundance. Rangelands and pastures continued to respond to favorable conditions. Livestock were in good shape.

SOUTH: Northern parts of the district reported hot weather conditions with short to adequate soil moisture levels. Hot weather conditions and short soil moisture levels were reported in the southernmost part of the district. Eastern parts of the district also reported hot and dry weather with very short to adequate soil moisture levels. Western parts of the district reported mild weather conditions along with rains and adequate to short soil moisture levels. Wheat harvest was completed in Frio County, and potato and sweet corn harvests continued. Peanut planting was in full swing. Cotton was squaring and a week from first bloom. Corn was maturing. Pasture and rangeland conditions remained fair to good. Live Oak County reported high temperatures and scattered thunderstorms that delivered trace amounts up to 2 inches of rain. Some areas did not receive any rainfall. Cotton was improving, but pastures and other row crops were suffering. Coastal Bermuda crop fields were producing good hay bales. Watermelon and cantaloupe harvests were complete. In Zavala County, the final fields of cabbage were harvested. Native rangelands and pastures responded favorably to rainfall and eliminated all supplemental feeding activities. Pasture conditions continued to deteriorate in other areas, and many producers began to haul water as tanks were starting to dry up. Cotton made good progress as well. Wheat and oat harvests were completed. Sorghum was doing well with little insect pressure. Pecans also made good progress. Extreme high temperatures and daily heat indexes were forecast.

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Annual Eagle Lake Rice Field Day set for June 25

EAGLE LAKE – The 45th annual Eagle Lake Rice Field Day is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. June 25 at the David R. Wintermann Rice Research Station on Farm-to-Market Road 102 just north of Eagle Lake.

The field day will offer an opportunity for producers to tour the research station, making stops along the way to hear about insect, weed, plant nutrient and disease management, varietal testing and rice breeding.

The field day is planned and coordinated by the Colorado County Rice Committee, which is comprised of local producers, in collaboration with the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. The committee meets throughout the year to identify relevant and applicable topics for the event.

Area agribusinesses provide sponsorship support so attendance is free. 

The evening program will be held at the Eagle Lake Community Center with Dr. Steve Linscombe, retired rice breeder at Louisiana State University, providing a brief update of the U.S. Rice Sustainability Report.

There also will be a discussion led by Pam West, general manager of Brookshire Drying Co., and Maclane Peters, of TRC Trading, concerning Texas rice exports. Dr. Joe Outlaw, AgriLife Extension economist, College Station, will provide an update on farm policy issues, and Dr. Ted Wilson, AgriLife Extension entomologist, Beaumont, will share some observations concerning climate stress data and what it may mean to rice production.

A catered meal will be provided. Two general Texas Department of Agriculture continuing education units will be offered to all licensed pesticide applicators who attend the tour and evening program.

For more information, contact the David R. Wintermann Rice Research Station at 979-234-3578 or the AgriLife Extension office for Colorado County at 979-732-2082.

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Texas A&M AgriLife facilitates accreditation of University of Nairobi Mycotoxin Laboratory

Media contact: Blair Fannin, 979-845-2259, b-fannin@tamu.edu

Contact: Dr. Tim Herrman, 979-845-1121,tjh@otsc.tamu.edu

COLLEGE STATION – Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the Office of the Texas State Chemist’s role in building a global food safety network to combat aflatoxin poisoning has taken another step forward with its recent accreditation of the University of Nairobi Mycotoxin Laboratory.  

The mission to combat aflatoxin risk includes assisting laboratories worldwide in their pursuit of ISO. This most recent accreditation was celebrated May 21 at the University of Nairobi with the presentation of an ISO 17025:2005 certificate by the Kenya Accreditation Service.

Dr. Julius Ogeng’o, University of Nairobi deputy vice-chancellor of academic affairs, receives certificate of accreditation from Martin Chesire, CEO, KENAS – Kenya Accreditation Service.

Dr. Tim Herrman, Texas State Chemist, was part of a team led by Dr. Sheila Okoth from the College of Biological and Physical Sciences at the University of Nairobi, and Martin Chesire, CEO, KENAS – Kenya Accreditation Service, and Dr. Julius Ogeng’o, University of Nairobi deputy vice-chancellor of academic affairs.

“Accreditation is one of the key things a world-class university should have,” Ogeng’o said. “This lab encompasses three things that are key to a world-class university. There are university-industry linkages, it addresses food security, which is a key issue in the Big 4 agenda, and it is an initiative that provides solutions to society.”

The Office of the Texas State Chemist initiated its global aflatoxin risk management program in 2014, patterned after its regulatory risk management model developed in Texas.

“We started our global outreach effort at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) Nairobi campus to test the hypothesis regarding the universality of a quality system’s approach to manage aflatoxin risk,” Herrman said.

“The initial effort began by establishing the first aflatoxin ISO accredited laboratory by the Kenya Accreditation Service on the ILRI campus and working with the Cereal Millers Association members in their adoption of a quality system’s approach to measure and manage aflatoxin risk.”

The program quickly expanded globally through collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations with the addition of aflatoxin proficiency testing and other international partners.

This program currently involves over 200 participating laboratories in 62 countries, including the one most recently accredited at the University of Nairobi.

“One major issue in Kenya is the high rate of deaths as a result of aflatoxin poisoning,” Okoth said. “Through the tests carried out in our lab, we are seeking to prevent aflatoxin poisoning. This accreditation is one that is credible, and it comes at a good time when we need to ensure that everything that is consumed is safe.”

Laboratory quality systems is one of the five pillars used to manage aflatoxin risk introduced by the Office of the Texas State Chemist.

“The Aflatoxin Risk Management Program takes a comprehensive approach working with governments and industry (public-private) partners, including the development of codes of practice and action plans that may be translated into laws, rules and standards,” Herrman said.

“We encourage use of a shared-governance approach, also referred to as co-regulation, where there are shared responsibilities and mutual benefits. Most significantly, it expands the oversight of firms’ risk management programs and extends to the consumer food safety at an affordable cost through creation of a connected and transparent marketplace.

“Economic analysis of this approach in Texas reveals the cost-benefit of this form of regulation creates significant value to all market participants while expanding our regulatory oversight 30 to 40 fold,” Herrman said.  

Continued work in Kenya involves a number of strategic partners at the county, national and international level.

“While the ultimate solution to plant pathogenrelated problems such as aflatoxin involves development of resistance, this has been difficult,” Herrman said. “During the interim, our work in Texas, the U.S.and abroad will help ensure food and feed safety impacted by mycotoxins in a world where markets and movement of food is an international enterprise.”

 

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Indiana Court of Appeals Upholds Constitutionality of Right to Farm Act

Recently, the Indiana Court of Appeals heard a challenge to the Indiana Right to Farm Statute.  In Himsel v. Himsel, the court held the statute was constitutional.

TAMU AgriLife photo

Factual Background

Sam Himsel has farmed in rural Hendricks County, Indiana, for his entire life.  In 2012, he and his sons decided to form 4/9 Livestock to start raising hogs.  They located their hog farm on property that had been in their family for over two decades and had been used for agriculture since at least 1941. The family planned to construct two livestock barns with a 4,000 hog capacity each.

In order to do so, the family was required to take certain legal actions.  First, they had to seek re-zoning of the land from agricultural residential to agricultural intensive, which they successfully did.  One of the plaintiffs in this case spoke against the re-zoning at the hearing, but none of the plaintiffs appealed the decision.  Next, the family had to obtain a permit for the CAFO from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), which included two public hearings.  The IDEM granted the two permits, and the plaintiffs did not object.

In July 2013, 4/9 Livestock entered into an independent contractor relationship with Co-Alliance.  Co-Alliance would supply hogs and 4/9 would raise them.  Each group of hogs would remain on the property for about 6 months before shipped off, and then another group being shipped in.

Hogs first arrived on the property in October 2013.

The plaintiffs live in the vicinity of the hog operation.  Richard and Janet Himsel have lived in a 1926 farmhouse since 1994 and previously farmed the land.  Richard also raised livestock previously on his farm, including 200 hogs, 200 head of cattle, and a 400-head swine confinement building.  Robert Lannon built his home in 1971 and although he and his wife have never farmed, they are accustomed to rural life.

Procedural Background

The plaintiffs filed suit against 4/9 Livestock claiming nuisance, negligence, and trespass.  In particular, the plaintiffs complained about the odor of the swine operation claiming it diminished their quality of life, property value, and altered their daily activities.  Further, the plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of the Indiana Right to Farm Act, claiming the statute both facially unconstitutional and unconstitutional as applied in this case as it violates the Open Courts Clause, the Takings Clause of both the federal and state constitution, and the Privileges and Immunities clause.

4/9 Livestock, raising the Right to Farm Act as a defense, moved for summary judgment, which was granted by the court.  This effectively dismissed the case.  The plaintiffs appealed.

Indiana Right to Farm Act

The Indiana Right to Farm Act exists to “conserve, protect, and encourage the development and improvement of agricultural and for the production of food and other agricultural products.”

The statute provides, in relevant part, that an agricultural operation is not and does not become a nuisance by any changed conditions i the vicinity of the locality after the agricultural operation has been in operation continually on the locality for more than one year and: (1) there is no significant change in the type of operation ; and (2) the operation would not have been a nuisance at the time the agricultural operation began on that locality.  Further, the statute expressly provides that the following situations are not “significant changes” per the statute: “(a) the conversion from one type of ag operation to another type of ag operation; (b) a change in the ownership or size of the ag operation;… and (d) the adoption of new technology by the ag operation.”  Additionally, there is an exception, providing that the Act is inapplicable if the nuisance results from the negligent operation of the ag operation. [Read the full statute here.]

Here, the plaintiffs conceded that the hog farm is an ag operation, has been in existence for over one year, and that no significant change–as defined by the statute–has occurred.  The plaintiffs argue that the Right to Farm Act does not apply, however, because they say the hog farm would have been a nuisance when farming originally began on the farm.

Court of Appeals Decision

Nuisance claim

The court sided with 4/9 Livestock.  Importantly, the court held it would not require 4/9 Livestock to prove that their particular hog farm would not have been a nuisance in 1941, only that hog farming generally would not have been.  As the Court explained, “Robert Lannon knowingly built his residential home in the middle of farm country, and the Himsel Plaintiffs lived and farmed on their property for a number of years before selling off much of their land and changing the use of their home to purely residential.  None of the Plaintiffs can now be heard to complaint hat their residential use of their property is being negatively impacted because the use of the Farm changed from crops to hogs, a use that would not have been a nuisance in or around 1941 when the agricultural operation began on the locality.”

Further, the court noted the significant “local and administrative hurdles” a farmer has to overcome before building this type of operation.  “The plaintiffs were provided ample due process to challenge the size and/or placement of the CAFO buildings on the Farm, yet they decided instead to wait and file a nuisance action more than two years later.  In light of the Right to Farm Act, they put their eggs in the wrong basket.  Their general nuisance claim fails as a matter of law.”

Negligence claim

The court found that the exception to the Right to Farm Act, providing the act does not apply if the operation is done in a negligent manner, is inapplicable to this case.  There was no evidence that the operation was being negligently managed or were in violation of any IDEM regulations.  And as to the claim of “negligent siting,” the court found that this claim–related to the decision to build in a particular location–cannot constitute “negligent operation” under the Right to Farm Act, as it would provide an end-run around the Act itself.

Trespass claim

The plaintiffs sought to avoid the Right to Farm Act defense by pleading trespass, whereas the statutory language refers only to nuisance claims.  In particular, they claimed that the odor, pollutants, and harmful gasses, resulted in a physical, space-filling invasion to their homes.  Citing to a case from here in Texas, the court held that this type of artful pleading and labeling does not allow a plaintiff to avoid the Right to Farm Act.  Thus, the defense applies to trespass claims as well.

Constitutionality of Right to Farm Act

Finally, the Court addressed the constitutionality of the Indiana Right to Farm Act.

Open Courts Clause (IN Constitution)  “All courts shall be open; and every person, for injury done to him in his person, property, or reputation, shall have remedy by due course of law.”  The court held that the legislature modifying the common law of nuisance by passing the Right to Farm Act does not violate this provision as this limitation is rationale and falls within the authority of the legislature.

Takings clauses (IN and US Constitution)  In order to prove a regulatory takings, the court analyzed, the plaintiffs would have to show a deprivation of all or substantially all economic or productive use of his or her property.  The court cited to prior cases involving noise complaints where the courts rejected takings claims because the noise did not amount to a substantial impairment of the use of the property.  Similarly, the court held that here, the plaintiffs were not deprived of all or substantially all of their economic uses of their properties.  Although property values may have decreased, they remained significant according to the court.  Moreover, both continue to live on the properties.  Thus, no taking occurred.

Privileges and Immunities Clause (IN Constitution)  “The General Assembly shall not grant to any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges and immunities, which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens.”  The plaintiffs claim the statute creates two classes of people, those who are currently engaged in an ag operation in existence for over one year and everyone else who lives in the country.  They argue that those in the first group may sue anyone in the first or second group for nuisance, while those in the second group may  only sue those in the second group.  Although the court agrees that the Right to Farm Act treats ag operations differently, it held that it did so for a rational reason–to protect agriculture.  Further, the court found that the preferential treatment is uniform among all ag operations.  This clause was not violated by the Right to Farm Act.

IN Agricultural Canon  The Canon, passed in 2014, essentially states a policy to protect agriculture and provides that state law shall be construed to protect the rights of agricultural operations.  This Canon applies to aid in interpreting statutes only where it is unambiguous–where a statute is clear, the Canon does not apply.  Because the Right to Farm Act is unambiguous, and the Canon need not be applied, the court declined to consider its constitutionality.

The plaintiffs  have filed a Motion for Rehearing, so the timeline to file an appeal to the IN Supreme Court has not yet run.

Why We Care?

Right to Farm Acts exist in all 50 states, although the language and details of each differ.  [To find your state’s Act, click here.]  These statutes offer an affirmative defense to ag operations facing nuisance lawsuits and have been important to farmers and ranchers particularly in areas of urban sprawl.  There have been a number of nuisance lawsuits against ag operations across the country in recent years, and these defenses are often critical to those defending an agricultural operation.  It can be instructive to see the legal challenges brought to different state statutes and the ways courts analyze them, as we well may see other similar cases in other states at some point.

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