Last week was a strange one in my practice. Several clients — and non-clients — were wondering how the newly announced $12 billion farm aid package was going to be disbursed and managed. That is an easy answer: I don't know. The federal agencies who are responsible for administering the aid and providing technical assistance — the Farm Service Agency and the Natural Resources Conservation Services — don't know the answer to that question either. It's just too early in the process.
Volatility in grain markets is a topic that impacts farm policy in several ways. In fact, volatility in grain markets is a primary historical reason for the farm bill that exists today. Although the federal government has regulated agriculture since the early 1800s, the first farm bill took effect in the early 1930s, as the FDR-led federal government tried to stabilize the effects of the Great Depression in rural America.
The current version of the farm bill expires in less than three months, so the spotlight the past two weeks was on the House and Senate versions of the farm bill. A version of the bill has now passed both houses of Congress, although there is still much work to be done. The House vote was first in line, and there was plenty to discuss the $860 billion farm bill. The vote was mostly along party lines, with the final tally at 213-211. It has been reported that this was the first farm bill to pass either chamber of Congress with the support of only one party.
The State Bar Association of North Dakota conducted their annual meeting in Bismarck last week, so the author of this column spent quite a bit of time speaking with his peers about various legal topics. One of the things we pondered was the question "What is agricultural law?"
I have seen more unmanned aerial vehicles in the past two months than I saw in the previous two years. Maybe this is coincidence, but I don't think so. The issue of UAVs — also known as drones — is fascinating. The consideration of legal issues pertaining to drones is equally fascinating.
The 10th Amendment of the United States Constitution sets forth: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."
This week's news includes a report that the North Dakota Industrial Commission is eight months behind in publishing meeting minutes. The Industrial Commission is comprised of the governor, agriculture commissioner and attorney general. Amongst other jobs, the Industrial Commission is tasked with regulating oil and gas development, the North Dakota State Mill and Elevator and the Bank of North Dakota.
I am a fan of axioms, statements that are just generally accepted as true, no matter what the situation. One of my favorite axioms is "You can't judge a book by its cover." I am also a fan of great movie lines. One of my favorites is from the 1950 classic "All About Eve," where Bette Davis famously says "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night."
Do you remember Earl Butz? I've been thinking about him lately. Butz was the Secretary of Agriculture under President Richard Nixon in the 1970s. Described in a Feb. 8, 2008, Grist article by Tom Philpott as "blustering, boisterous and often vulgar", Earl Butz was an American original, a character with a vision who — it turns out — had a pretty accurate prediction of the future of agriculture in some respects.
As a farmer who also practices law, I was delighted to see a story recently on areavoices.com about ditch mowing. Yes, ditch mowing. In my former career as a state's attorney, one of my favorite duties was serving as counsel for the County Weed Board, and I still follow legislation and/or current events pertaining to the topic. To me, county weed boards are an ongoing example of why local government efforts are typically the most efficient expenditure of taxpayer resources.