1. Bowman v. Monsanto. When was the last time the U.S. Supreme Court addressed the planting of soybeans in a case? That happened this year when Vernon Bowman, an Indiana farmer, planted glyphosate resistant (“Roundup Ready”) soybeans he had purchased at a local elevator without paying for a license from Monsanto. The Court upheld Monsanto’s patent, determining that Bowman had replicated the patented Roundup Ready technology in violation of Monsanto’s patent.
2. Right to Farm Act Upheld. Indiana saw two major Right to Farm Act cases this year. In the first case, Parker v. Obert’s Legacy Dairy, the Indiana Court of Appeals determined that a neighbor’s nuisance suit against a dairy farm that had expanded from 100 to 700 cows was barred by the Right to Farm Act. It did not matter that the neighbor had lived in the area for nearly 75 years and was a retired hobby farmer. In the second case, Dalzell v. Country View Family Farms, the Seventh Circuit federal court of appeals held that a hog farm was also protected by the Right to Farm Act, even though the hog barns were new construction in a cornfield. What mattered to the court was that the hog farm was in an existing agricultural area.
3. Attack of the Drones. I was somewhat surprised to see the response to my article about legal implications if, hypothetically, government agencies started use autonomous drones to look for water quality violations or field monitoring. The issue was hot, although also somewhat premature. The FAA, which has jurisdiction over anything flying in U.S. airspace, has not yet approved drones for commercial or government agency use, except in a few instances. But, such regulations are coming and the legal issues are too.
2013 was a great year to be an ag lawyer. Thank you for reading and look for more in 2014!