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December 30, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

As we store away the wrapping paper and pull out the New Years’ hats and horns, we thought it would be a good time to review the significant agricultural law developments of 2015. While this review is not comprehensive or intended to rank the topics in order of importance, it does demonstrate how much can change in a year.  So, pour that last glass of egg nog and savor the last few hours of the year. If this list is any indication, it’s going to be a busy 2016.

October 26, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

We have been keeping you up to date on the status of Dakota Access, LLC's petition to obtain a permit from the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) to construct a crude oil pipeline across Iowa.  Dakota Access, a private Texas company, filed its permit application on January 20, 2015. Since that time, the company’s land agents have negotiated voluntary easement agreements with owners of approximately two-thirds of the tracts along the route of the proposed pipeline.

We’ve been keeping you informed about a Texas company’s proposal to build a crude oil pipeline across Iowa to transport oil from North Dakota to Illinois.

June 18, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

Mistakes happen. Sometimes mistakes lead to legal liability, as in the case of negligence. But sometimes, where it’s apparent that a mistake in an instrument was a mutual one, equity steps in to “reform” the mistake. No harm. No foul. The document is reformed to reflect the true intent of the parties. A recent case from the Iowa Court of Appeals demonstrates the application of this doctrine.

On January 20, 2015, Dakota Access, LLC, filed with the Iowa Utilities Board a petition for a hazardous liquid pipeline permit.

May 7, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

A recent case from the Iowa Court of Appeals reminds us that in order to acquire title to the property of another through a prescriptive easement (a non-exclusive form of adverse possession), the plaintiff must strictly prove the elements of the claim. In this case, the plaintiff proffered no such proof.

April 16, 2015 | Roger A. McEowen

In recent years, agriculture has seen increased litigation brought by parties that are generally opposed to various types of agricultural production.  Large scale crop farming and livestock operations are in the cross-hairs, as evidenced recently by the attack in Iowa brought by the Des Moines Water Works against farmers that use field tile drainage systems to make their land suitable for cropping practices (drainage is “anti-social”) and various lawsuits brought by rural residents and activist groups against concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). 

April 15, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

The Iowa Court of Appeals again set forth the requirements to prove an easement by prescription as yet another family feud played out in the court system.

March 13, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

The Iowa Utilities Board ruled this week that Dakota Access, LLC, substantially complied with Iowa law when it notified landowners of its plans to seek a permit to build an oil pipeline across their property.

March 6, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

State laws differ in the protections they grant to landowners facing eminent domain.

Rock Island Clean Line (RICL) is seeking a franchise from the Iowa Utitlies Board (IUB) to build a high voltage direct current line across Iowa. The line would transport wind energy generated in northwest Iowa to Illinois. It would cross 16 Iowa counties and 1,540 parcels of land, impacting 2,295 different owners.

The Iowa Court of Appeals recently determined that the owner of a landlocked parcel had a right to seek condemnation for an access road, but improperly sought to condemn a route that did not meet the statutory requirements.  The case is a good illustration of the statutory rules that must be followed for establishing the location of a right-of-way via condemnation.   

On January 20, 2015, Dakota Access, LLC, a subsidiary of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, filed a petition with the Iowa Board of Utilities seeking a permit to build a crude oil pipeline across the State of Iowa. 

On June 11, 2014, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit heard oral arguments in Morehouse v. Comr., 140 T.C. No. 16 (2013).  In Morehouse, the Tax Court agreed with the IRS that Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) payments are subject to self-employment tax because a recipient is engaged in a trade or business simply by signing the CRP contract with the intent to profit from the CRP.

The Iowa Court of Appeals has ruled that a farmer obtained an easement by prescription to keep a large irrigation rig on a portion of his neighbors’ property over which he already held a right of way.

The Iowa Court of Appeals recently affirmed a district court’s judgment declaring a disputed roadway to be public and enjoining the defendant from harassing his neighbor concerning her use of the road in the future.

April 4, 2014 | Roger A. McEowen and Kristine A. Tidgren

Most electrical energy is transmitted throughout the county via high voltage overhead transmission lines. Most of these lines transmit high voltage alternating current. Newer renewable energy projects, however, require high voltage direct current lines, which allow energy to be transmitted efficiently over longer distances. 

The Iowa Court of Appeals has ruled that adverse possession can be established, even if the possessor of the property came to the property with permission.

In an 8-1 decision, the United States Supreme Court has reversed the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to find that fee simple ownership of an abandoned railroad right of way vested in the owner of the surrounding tract, not in the United States, which had claimed a reversionary interest.

The Iowa Court of Appeals recently settled a neighborhood dispute, ruling that all neighbors had the right to use a roadway that was designed to benefit the neighborhood.

February 4, 2014 | Roger A. McEowen

On January 31, the U.S. House passed H.R. 2642, the “Agricultural Act of 2014” on a 251-166 vote.

A recent federal case from the Middle District of Pennsylvania highlights the importance of carefully negotiating and reviewing terms within conservation easements so as to fully protect landowners’ interests.

The defendants were the plaintiff’s son and daughter-in-law.  In 1999, the defendants acquired a six-acre tract adjacent to the plaintiff’s farm that she owned with her husband. The tract was land-locked and zoned for agricultural use only. 

The Iowa Court of Appeals recently decided that a landowner was entitled to a prescriptive easement for a fence erected on land owned by the adjacent landowner. The court ruled, however, that his prescriptive easement did not cover anything more than the fence line and that he had not established a new boundary by acquiescence. 

October 15, 2007 | Roger McEowen


March 12, 2007 | Roger McEowen


September 3, 2007 | Erin Herbold


Here, the property owners appealed a district court decision finding that the county held a prescriptive easement across their property.  An easement by prescription is similar to the concept of adverse possession.  In Iowa,  if an individual possesses someone else’s land in an open and notorious fashion with an intent to take it away from them, such person (known as an adverse possessor) becomes the true property owner after ten years. 

September 21, 2007 | Erin Herbold


The Iowa Court of Appeals has decided still another boundary dispute case. This time, the court’s opinion illustrates the peril of relying on neighborly accommodation to establish a boundary. 

October 22, 2007 | Erin Herbold


December 3, 2007 | Erin Herbold


A prescriptive easement is an easement determined to exist by law that gives the easement holder the right to use a part of another person’s property once it has been determined that the party asserting the easement has used the property in a certain manner for a set number of years (10 years in Iowa).  This case involved a county’s assertion of an easement for a road over a strip of the plaintiff’s property.



A recent opinion of the Iowa Court of Appeals reaffirms the principle that a restrictive covenant can be created by a plat. The court's opinion is a reminder that care must be taken in the preparation of plat maps, title opinions and when further development of lots contained in subdivisions is anticipated.

May 27, 2008 | Roger McEowen


It’s a fundamental principle that most people understand – it’s not a good idea to build a barn in the middle of a road.  But, that’s exactly what happened in this case from Monroe County.  

October 6, 2008 | Erin Herbold


In Iowa, landowners with landlocked real estate are entitled to access to their property via an easement by necessity. Here, neighbors executed an easement agreement permitting access to two tracts of land (the dominant estate) through the adjacent parcel (servient estate) owned by one of the neighbors. The parties agreed to share a gravel roadway located on the easement as a driveway.  After an argument regarding the placement of property lines, the owners of the servient estate constructed a speed bump on the access road, claiming safety concerns. 

November 30, 2009 | Erin Herbold



When a landowner owns a parcel of land that is landlocked, the landowner can access the property by the nearest feasible route. Iowa courts have typically refused to examine the impact on the servient estate (the land that is being crossed) when determining the location of the nearest feasible route. 

February 23, 2010 | Erin Herbold


September 7, 2010 | Erin Herbold


In Iowa, an easement can be created either by express grant or reservation in a deed , by prescription, (3) by necessity or by implication. 

December 30, 2010 | Erin Herbold


August 27, 2011 | Erin C. Herbold-Swalwell


The petitioners in this case purchased an apartment building and decided to remodel the second floor and attach an enclosed staircase resting on the roof of a garage located behind the apartment building. The petitioners assumed that they were entitled to use the garage, because the prior owners had used it. Unfortunately, the garage encroached onto the property of the respondents- adjacent landowners to the south. 



Two recent Iowa cases point out that when details of intentions concerning the use and responsibilities between parties affecting land are not explicitly written out, disputes can occur upon change in ownership and control of that land. That is precisely what happened in the following cases. The parties and facts are the same for both cases.


Adverse possession requires open, hostile, actual, exclusive and continuous possession of property under a claim of title for at least ten years. The burden is on the party seeking to establish title through adverse possession to establish this possession by clear proof.