It’s was another busy week on the High Plains! Last Wednesday, I gave a webinar for the Texas A&M University Think Tank committee on using blogs, podcasts, and social media in Extension programming and Thursday, I offered a webinar for the Houston County New Landowner’s Series on ag law. Friday evening, I headed to San Angelo to speak at the TAMU Sheep & Goat Expo.
Here are some of the ag law stories in the news this week.
* Third North Carolina nuisance verdict is in against Smithfield hog farm. We’ve been closely following the series of 26 nuisance lawsuits filed against Smithfield hog farms in North Carolina. On August 3, the third verdict came in, finding that a nuisance did exist and awarding 6 plaintiffs over $473 million. Damage caps in North Carolina will likely decrease that award to around $94 million. Twenty-three additional cases are still pending. This has sent shockwaves and concern across the United States for pork and other agricultural producers. To hear more about the background of these lawsuits, listen to this prior podcast episode with Jake Parker from the NC Farm Bureau. [Read article here.]
* Judge in Smithfield hog nuisance cases replaced, at least for now. In another newsworthy item from the same litigation, Judge Earl Britt, the federal judge who has presided over the first three trials, was temporarily replaced at least for the fourth trial upcoming. Judge David Faber of West Virginia will hear the next trial. It is unclear whether Judge Britt will return to preside over future trials. [Read article here.]
* San Augustin Plains Ranch announces appeal of permit denial. The San Augustin Plains Ranch has announced it will appeal the NM State Engineer’s decision to deny its permit seeking to pump groundwater in rural New Mexico and pipe it to sell to purchasers in more urban areas. [Read article here.]
* Supreme Court replaces Special Master in Florida v. Georgia. In a bit of a surprising move, the United States Supreme Court has replaced the special master presiding over the water law dispute between Florida and Georgia. The Court released Maine attorney Ralph Lancaster, who has been presiding over the case since 2014. The replacement is Judge Paul Kelly, a federal court judge from New Mexico. [Read article here.]
* San Francisco jury awards $289 million in RoundUp case. A San Francisco jury has awarded $289 million to the plaintiff in a lawsuit featuring a school groundskeeper against Monsanto alleging that their weedkiller, RoundUp, caused him to get cancer. $250 million of the verdict was punitive damages. Monsanto has announced it will appeal the decision. The burden of proof in this case rested with the plaintiff, who had to prove that RoundUp was a “substantial contributing factor” to his getting cancer. Thousands of similar cases are pending across the country. [Read article here.]