March 2017

March 2017


Why a Federal Court Dismissed the DMWW Lawsuit

Two years and one day after the Board of Water Works Trustees for the City of Des Moines (DMWW) filed its controversial lawsuit against the drainage districts in three northwest Iowa counties, a federal court has dismissed the action in its entirety.

After two years and the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars, the merits of the case were never considered. The court was required to dismiss the lawsuit after finding that—even if DMWW was able to prove an injury—the drainage districts would have no ability to redress (or remedy) that injury. In other words, the drainage districts were not the proper defendants for this Clean Water Act lawsuit.

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New Law Limits Ag Nuisance Damages

On March 29, 2017, Governor Branstad signed SF 447 into law. The new law, designed to curb damage awards in nuisance cases brought against responsible animal feeding operations, went into effect immediately.

The stated purpose of the law is to encourage animal feeding operations to “adopt existing prudent and generally utilized management practices for their animal feeding operations” and to “provide a reasonable level of protection to persons engaged in animal agricultural production from certain types of nuisance actions.”

Earlier bills had sought to shift the attorney fees of animal feeding operations to a losing plaintiff. The new law, however, does not include this provision.

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Iowa Supreme Court: Single Grazing Horse Did Not Establish a Farm Tenancy

Last year, many of us were surprised by an Iowa Court of Appeals decision that held that a single grazing horse was sufficient to establish a farm tenancy. Why did this matter? Because under the court’s ruling, the owners of the horse (and arguably anyone with backyard chickens or a pet emu) were entitled to the protection of the Iowa farm tenancy termination statute. Under Iowa Code § 562.6, if written notice is not sent via certified mail before September 1, the lease automatically renews for another year, beginning the following March 1. In other words, on September 2, this statute can make the difference between a 30-day wait to terminate an at-will tenant and a near 18-month wait to terminate a farm tenant.

On March 10,2017, the Iowa Supreme Court issued an opinion walking back this result. In developing a new "primary purpose" test, the Court held that "land which is not devoted primarily to the production of crops or the care and feeding of livestock cannot be the foundation of an Iowa Code chapter 562 farm tenancy." This is a helpful opinion, but more should be done to clarify the reach of the termination notice requirements.

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CALT does not provide legal advice. Any information provided on this website is not intended to be a substitute for legal services from a competent professional. CALT's work is supported by fee-based seminars and generous private gifts. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in the material contained on this website do not necessarily reflect the views of Iowa State University.

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