This week, two of our staff attended the annual Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation’s (“CALT”) Seminars on Ag Law and Estate Planning. Here are some of the big topics addressed on the first day:
- Professor Roger McEowen began the morning by discussing some of the recent notable case law across the country and legislative enactments in Iowa. Some of the highlights included wrongdoing by township trustees in a fence line clearing agreement between neighbors (Kilroy, et al., v. Peters in Ohio); the severe consequences in failing to complete a diligent search of title for mineral rights in land being sold ‘as is’ to a buyer who wants those minerals (Argo Holdings, LLC v. Renick in Kansas); takings and money exactions (Koontz v. St. John’s River from Florida); and several cases dealing with crop insurance issues took center stage. New Iowa law SF 316 eliminated the exception to the statutory written notice requirement for the termination of farm tenancies where less than 40 acres is leased. So, always give a written notice now, no matter how small the farmland is you are dealing with.
- Utah attorney Phillip Nelsen spoke about the abilities property owners have in protecting themselves, their property, and their animals. Mr. Nelsen said that of all his talks around the country, more farmers in Iowa than anywhere else have questions regarding the use of spring guns or traps on their land. Iowa law simply does not allow these to be used in protecting mere property. Mr. Nelsen also discussed the status of gun trusts in the wake of a new executive order requiring background checks and registration for beneficiaries. Read about the executive order here.
- Kansas attorney Karen Mellvain described her experiences in dealing with the Risk Management Agency in crop insurance cases. She reported that one issue often appealed is when a farmer does not pay his or her premium due to a disagreement over previous payments (or lack of). But, even if a farmer’s excuse or protest is for very good reasons, failure to pay for the coverage shuts off any equitable relief under the RMA. Therefore, a farmer should protect his or her interests and pay the upcoming premium in order to get coverage before you lose out. Continue to protest, but do not neglect purchasing for the upcoming season. Also, if you do have a claim relating to a loss, be sure you are proactive, taking lots of pictures and documenting evidence of your compliance and of the disaster, and within 72 hours of the loss, you should have your notice to your provider in writing. An oral notice after the 1st hour, even if it’s later supplemented by a written notice 73 hours afterward, will do you no good.
- The afternoon session started with Prof. Jesse J. Richardson of West Virginia University College of Law discussing recent federal cases involving the Environmental Protection Agency (Alt and Rose Acre Farms). A number of issues are left unresolved from these cases, and they may need to be addressed by the Supreme Court in a later term. Prof. Richardson was followed by Christina L. Gruenhagen of the Iowa Farm Bureau, who notified the group of a new EPA Work Plan Agreement between the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and EPA Region 7. You can find that agreement here. Ms. Gruenhagen also discussed the various ways to prepare for a DNR siting inspection.
- Finally, attorney Tim Gartin of Ames led two engaging seminars to close out the day. In the first, he discussed the various ways family law and judgments can present themselves in title opinion issues and real estate transactions. One good discussion revolved around the Iowa homestead exemption and the recently revised Sec. 624.23(2). The last seminar was about ethics, a topic that Iowa requires their licensed attorneys to continually review. Mr. Gartin’s session focused on many practical issues, including the conflicts of interest an attorney has in dual representation of the buyer and seller in a real estate transaction.