Legal challenges abound for farmers

Judge's ruling in flooding case could have implications for Illinois farmers, says ag law expert at recent IFB Governmental Affairs Conference.

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Harrison Pittman, director of the National Agricultural Law Center, outlines emerging issues affecting farmers during last week’s Governmental Affairs Leadership Conference. (Photo by Catrina Rawson)

By Deana Stroisch

From dicamba to trade, America’s farmers could be affected by legal, policy and regulatory proposals pending across the country.

Speaking at Illinois Farm Bureau’s Governmental Affairs Conference last week, Harrison Pittman, executive director of the National Agricultural Law Center, outlined a number of emerging legal issues farmers need to watch. They include:

Flooding. A federal judge last week found the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers responsible for persistent flooding to farms in Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri. In the case of Ideker Farms, Inc. et al. v. United States of America, damages could exceed $300 million, he said.

“The central piece is the (Corps’) liable and has to pay under the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution for what amounts to the taking of their property,” Pittman said. “This is a landmark decision and it has implications in states like Illinois and beyond.”

Syngenta settlement. A $1.5 billion settlement agreement was reached last week in the class action lawsuit regarding the company’s modified Viptera and Duracade corn seed strains. It’s believed to be the single largest ag litigation settlement in history, he said.

The products were put into the U.S. market before being approved for import by China. “The theory goes that they turned away shipments, and that depressed the price on the market, and U.S. farmers lost a lot of money on the deal,” he said.

Chlorpyrifos. A ban on the pesticide, widely used for decades, was proposed but never finalized under President Barack Obama’s administration. Current Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt rejected the proposed ban. Environmental groups haven’t given up, but they have changed tactics, Pittman said.

Instead of seeking resolution at the federal level, environmental groups are taking a state level approach, he said. Four or five states currently have legislative proposals pending to ban Chlorpyrifos, he said.

“That is emblematic of a lot of other issues,” he said. “From an advocacy standpoint and the type of work that you do as a Farm Bureau in Illinois, and your allies, this is something to really pay attention to.”

2018 farm bill. “This is going to be an extremely difficult farm bill to be enacted,” he said, pointing to the election year and recent disagreement over the nutrition title. “Who knows what’s going to happen.”

International ag trade. The Trump administration withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and the 11 other countries proceeded. “The thing to watch there is in about a year, that takes effect,” Pittman said. “They’re all going to be trading with countries that we trade with now, and that’s all about market share.”

No word on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP), which Pittman noted often went hand-in-hand with TPP. Trade with Cuba isn’t discussed much either, he said.

Meanwhile, renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) continues, he said.  Don’t forget that the possibility of a U.S. withdrawal from NAFTA remains. “That’s still on the table,” he said.

About the National Agricultural Law Center

Based at the University of Arkansas, and created more than 20 years ago, the center remains the only agricultural law research and information facility that is independent, national in scope, and directly connected to the national agricultural information network.

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