In a time where some pollsters are reporting gains in President Donald Trump's approval ratings and where other news abounds concerning midterm elections — still 9 months away — it is interesting to see where policy is intersecting with agriculture. There was news this past week that affects the U.S. Department of Agriculture's budget, and that news had to do with a Trump administration proposal regarding food stamps.
Groundhog day is coming up. Spring will soon be upon us. With the melting of the snow comes the opening up of snowed in roads, and farmers will soon be moving about and getting ready for planting. Last year I had a farmer come in and ask me about liability for maintaining an abandoned farmstead he owned. Some kids had a bonfire party on the property, and one of the kids ended up getting injured while on his property. I was thinking about that farmer the other day.
Contract law is interesting. Most farmers are well-versed in the nuances of "offer" and "acceptance," or what is and isn't "valid consideration" for a contract. At the very least, we are able to toss basic contract law terms around and sound like we know what we are saying.
As we begin 2018, it's interesting to look back on where farming has been recently and where farming is going. For me, one of the most interesting things to reflect upon is the farm economy.
Much has been said about the federal tax relief legislation and what it really means for farmers. Although the final version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act hasn't yet been signed into law, the framework of the tax relief legislation is clear enough to provide guidance for farmers to plan ahead. As an initial matter, the final legislation does provide across-the-board rate reduction for individuals and families.
Since it's near the end of the calendar year, it's time to revisit the status of the Waters of the United States rule, also known as WOTUS. It might be time to speculate a little bit, as well, about where the present state of WOTUS goes from here.
Wetlands are in the news again. It's timely, as corn harvest is nearly wrapped up, and fields are soon to be covered with snow. With the spring melt, drainage becomes a topic of interest. And so does wetlands compliance.
The study of law in agriculture is often a fascinating blend of farming, policy and law. Recently there has been a lot of this going on with regard to the use of dicamba herbicide. Several years ago, glyphosate-resistant crops were developed. This began the "Roundup Ready" era of farming, whereby glyphosate could be applied on corn, soybeans and other crops. All of a sudden, weed control was a lot easier than it used to be.
As a former government attorney, I still field questions about "sunshine laws" — laws about how open records and open meetings are handled. This is an interesting topic, one that is hard to encapsulate in a single column.
Every five years or so, our federal senators and representatives take up the topic of a farm bill. Next year is already 2018, so it's time for the farm bill to be a topic of debate. These are changing — some would say turbulent — times in agriculture. The markets are a little uncertain, agriculture has truly become a global market and the news out of Washington, D.C. isn't getting any less interesting.