Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Nominate Janzen Ag Law for the ABA's Blawg 100 List

The American Bar Association (ABA) is currently conducting its annual poll to find the best 100 law blogs (or "blawgs") on the web.  I'm active in the ABA, serving as chair of the Agricultural Management Committee for past year and the upcoming year.  I would love to have a good showing for this agricultural law blog.

If you have a couple minutes, please fill out the nomination form by clicking here:  ABA Blawg 100 Nomination

Here are last year's winners--ABA Blawg 100.  Note that agriculture is not well represented.  Let's change that.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

What you may be giving up when you agree to "Arbitration"

Grain contracts often
contain arbitration clauses
Although most people are unfamiliar with the arbitration process, it is common for many form contracts to contain "arbitration" clauses. The Texas Supreme Court recently addressed cotton farmers’ challenge to an arbitration clause in a cotton marketing contract.  The Texas court upheld the arbitration clause but questioned whether a one-sided attorneys’ fees provision favoring the marketer was unconscionable. (Read Texas ag blogger Tiffany Dowell's good summary here).  Having not read the boilerplate common in many contacts, people are often surprised to learn they have consented to arbitration.  The recent Texas case reminded me of my own experiences with arbitration clauses and what four rights clients give up when they agree to arbitrate:

Friday, June 6, 2014

Before You Click "Accept," Read Your Farm Data Privacy Policy

If you are like most people, when computer programs ask you to accept their latest privacy policy, you probably just hit "I accept these terms" and get on with using the software.  But recent concern over who controls agriculture's "big data" might have made you pause and think about whether you should just accept the terms provided--or decline and look for something else.  As agribusinesses roll out their farm data collection and analysis programs, take some time to read the data privacy policy that will accompany the program.  Here are some questions to ask as you do:

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

What You Need to Know About Drone Safety

I was recently interviewed for an article in Farm Journal's AgWeb about liability issues surrounding drone usage. Author Ben Potter does a nice job of discussing these issues and others that might arise from drone flights on the farm:
Randall Adkins, a precision farming specialist for Scott Equipment in Louisiana, has been researching several models of rotor drones over the past several months. On this clear spring day, he’s assembling his first fixed-wing model.
"I got a cheaper fixed-wing model so when I crash it, I don’t cry," he says. "One thing I know for sure – this thing’s going to be painted orange."
Continue reading at AgWeb: What You Need to Know About Drone Safety

Friday, May 16, 2014

Are Drones Legal as "Hobby" Aircraft?

The prevalence of drone flights on farms and in other remote locations has apparently caused some real concern at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  There are court cases pending to determine whether current drone usage is legal (from both a regulatory standpoint and a First Amendment standpoint--more on that in future posts), and new FAA regulations are expected in 2015 integrating drone use into U.S. airspace.  But in the meantime, many farmers are taking to the skies--either believing drones are already legal or believing no one will notice or care.

The main reason I hear explaining why drones are legal in the US is that they are essentially "model" or "hobby" aircraft. I thought it was worth digging into the legal basis for this claim. Here's what I found.

Friday, April 25, 2014

U.S. v. Causby: How a 1940s Chicken Farmer Case Will Impact Drone Usage in the 21st Century

In 1946, a North Carolina chicken farmer sued the United States government for trespass by air.  The US navy and army operated an airstrip adjacent to the chicken farm, such that the glide path from the runway extended directly over the farmer’s house and outbuildings. Normal glide paths put aircraft 67 feet above the house, 63 feet above the barn, and 18 feet above the highest tree.  Bombers, fighters, and other aircraft routinely flew over the farm, causing quite a disturbance:
The noise is startling. And at night the glare from the planes brightly lights up the place. As a result of the noise, respondents had to give up their chicken business. As many as six to ten of their chickens were killed in one day by flying into the walls from fright. The total chickens lost in that manner was about 150. Production also fell off. The result was the destruction of the use of the property as a commercial chicken farm. Respondents are frequently deprived of their sleep and the family has become nervous and frightened.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Agricultural Leadership is Hard Work

During our Indiana Ag Leadership class trip to Liberia, West Africa recently, I saw something that has stuck with me since I arrived back in Indiana. At a United Nation's peacekeeping outpost in Ganta, Liberia--manned completely by Bangladeshi troops and engineers--I noticed a large saying hand painted on the side of a building. I could only make out a few words, but I wrote those down. When I returned to Indiana, I Googled the phrase to see what it said.  Here's what I found:
It is not enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Reduce Farm Liability: Set Up a New Company for Your Custom Farming Operation

Farm Journal's Sara Schafer recently consulted me for an article she wrote on how to "Reduce Liability" for the farm. Her article discusses the need to create new legal companies to handle certain farm operations that fall outside of normal farm-work, such as custom farming or trucking.  Her article appeared in Top Producer and AgWeb, Farm Journal's online publication:
Custom farm work is a great way to diversify a business. It can provide supplemental income but can also add extra risk and exposure to your primary farm.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Indiana Ag Leadership Program Wrap Up

The previous five posts chronicled my journey with the Indiana Agricultural Leadership program to The Netherlands, Belgium, and Liberia. From an agricultural standpoint, the contrast between northern Europe and West Africa could not be more extreme.  Northern Europe has highly developed agricultural systems; West Africa's agriculture is rudimentary by comparison. Now that the trip is a few weeks behind me, I thought it worthwhile to provide some big picture deductions after observing these two different places in our world.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Challenges Facing Liberian Agriculture

The last leg of our Indiana Ag Leadership class was to Liberia, West Africa. What we saw was dramatically different than the highly structured and sophisticated agricultural systems of Northern Europe.  Liberian agriculture struggles in every area where EU agriculture thrives.  The root causes are many.  After a week traveling across the country, I am no expert in Liberian agriculture, but I hope these observations are enlightening to those who may never get to travel to Liberia or similar places.  My analysis below means no disrespect to the Liberian people, many of whom work hard each day just to obtain food and water.  The people I met were very friendly and welcomed US visitors with open arms.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The European Union's Common Agricultural Policy

Our Indiana Ag Leadership trip to northern Europe included a visit to the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium. The European Commission is the executive branch of the European Union (EU). One of the main topics of discussion was the Common Agricultural Policy, or "CAP," the EU's version of the US Farm Bill.  The CAP has been an essential part of EU policy for decades and, like the Farm Bill, periodically undergoes reform.  The post explains some of the differences and similarities between the CAP and most recent Farm Bill.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The European Union's Reluctance to Embrace GMOs

One of the questions that was frequently asked by our Indiana Ag Leadership class in Europe was why the European Union (EU) has not embraced genetically modified organisms (GMOs) like farmers in the US.  The answers were very interesting.

A fact I did not know prior to our recent trip is that many EU countries do allow importation of GMO corn and soybeans from the US.  Such products are used as animal feed, even though the same products could not be sold on the shelves for direct human consumption (unless the proper labeling was attached). Thus, milk on the grocery store shelves in EU member states may have come from cows fed GMO corn.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Three Agricultural Lessons from The Netherlands

The Netherlands is a country roughly the size of New Jersey yet is the second largest agricultural exporter in the world behind only the USA. That statistic is made even more remarkable when one considers that The Netherlands has over 17 million people and much of the country is below sea level. Our Indiana Agricultural Leadership class recently toured parts of The Netherlands to examine how the country maintains such productivity.  Here are my top three observations:

Friday, February 21, 2014

Indiana Ag Leaders to Visit Dutch Farms, European Union and West Africa

I am fortunate to be part of the Indiana Agricultural Leadership Program (or AgrIInstutitue).  In the next few weeks, our class will be travelling to The Netherlands, Belgium, and Liberia, West Africa.  While in The Netherlands we will tour a dairy farm, the flower market, The Hague, and one of the world's largest ports, Rotterdam.  Our Belgium visit will take us to the European Union (EU), where we will meet with world ag leaders.  Our stop in Africa will be in the country of Liberia, on the central western coast.  We will work with organizations teaching and developing agriculture in that country.

Our trip was recently written about in The Liberian Observer, the newspaper of the capital city of Monrovia.