Search Our Online Library

Discover, read, and monitor a wealth of information on your topic from several different sources.

June 12, 2008 | Roger McEowen


August 11, 2008 | Roger McEowen


July 7, 2011 | Erin C. Herbold-Swalwell


In Iowa, debtors in a bankruptcy proceeding must claim exemptions from the bankruptcy estate under Iowa law because Iowa has opted out of the federal exemptions.  In Iowa, a homestead is exempt from judicial sale in a bankruptcy proceeding. An Iowa homestead “must embrace the house used as a home by the owner, and, if the owner has two or more houses thus used, the owner may select which the owner will retain (Iowa Code §561.1).


November 20, 2006 | Roger McEowen


The Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Iowa has become the first court in the nation to rule on the meaning and scope of language contained in the 2005 Bankruptcy Act designed to provide tax relief to farmers that file Chapter 12 (reorganization) bankruptcy. Historically, taxes triggered upon sale of farm assets were a priority claim in the bankruptcy estate and had to be paid in full ahead of the claims of general unsecured creditors. The 2005 Act changed that by stating:


November 6, 2008

VeraSun Energy and its 24 subsidiaries filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy on October 31, 2008 in the United States Bankruptcy Court in Delaware.  The bankruptcy filing raises numerous questions for farmers and grain elevators that have legal relationships with VeraSun. 

VeraSun operates 17 ethanol plants eight states:


Parties Seeking Payment Have Apparently Dropped their Preference Claims for Corn Producers

November 21, 2008 | Roger McEowen

VeraSun filed a motion to establish a procedure to assume or reject executory contracts on November 14, 2008.  The deadline for corn suppliers to object to VeraSun’s motion is November 21, 2008.  Accordingly, a group of approximately 100 farmers did file a motion on November 21 objecting to VeraSun’s motion and requesting the court to establish a time certain for VeraSun to move to either accept or reject executory corn contracts.  A hearing on the matter has been set for December 2 in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware.   

Since the late 1980s, the IRS and the courts have issued various rulings, advices, notices and opinions concerning the issue of whether Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) payments are subject to self-employment tax.  Until 2003, the IRS always took the position that a taxpayer had to be materially participating in a farming operation for CRP payments to be subject to self-employment tax.  The courts agreed.  But, in 2003, the IRS took the position in a Chief Counsel Advice that the mere signing of a CRP contract resulted in the signing taxpayer being engaged in the trade or business of fa
December 5, 2008 | Roger McEowen


On December 2, the Delaware bankruptcy court handling the VeraSun matter declined to set a firm date for VeraSun to determine whether it would affirm or reject corn contracts.  However, after the hearing, VeraSun’s counsel announced that all contracts for seven of its eight U.S. Bio plants requiring delivery through January 15, 2009 would be rejected. 

The rejected contracts are for delivery to:

Albert City, Iowa
Dyersville, Iowa
Woodbury, Michigan
Janesville, MN
Ord, Nebraska
Central City, Nebraska
Hankinson, North Dakota


On December 11, 2008, VeraSun sent letters to its corn suppliers at seven of its eight US Bio Plants offering options regarding their contracts for delivery of corn through January 31, 2009.  The affected plants are those in Albert City, IA, Dyersville, IA, Woodbury, MI, Janesville, MN, Welcome, MN, Ord, NE, Central City, NE and Hankinson, ND.  The plants in Janesville, MN and Welcome, MN are idle and not accepting corn.

In the letters, VeraSun outlines three options for producers:





The Sherman Act prohibits unreasonable restraints of trade.  But, certain types of “tying” arrangements - where a seller ties one product to the sale of another product - are per se illegal. The question in this case was whether the tying of access to a multiple listing service (MLS) to membership in a realtors association violated antitrust law. 



August 16, 2007 | Roger McEowen


February 1, 2008 | Roger McEowen


A federal class action complaint has been filed against the nation's four largest title companies claiming that the companies fix prices for title insurance, costing homebuyers millions of dollars a year.  The complaint alleges that Fidelity National, First American, LandAmerica, and Stewart title companies and their affiliates fix rates in New York through the Title Insurance Rate Service Association, which they formed with other, smaller conspirators in 1991.

June 14, 2013 | Roger McEowen and Erika Eckley

In general, disputed matters involving government administrative agencies must first be dealt with in accordance with the particular agency’s own procedural rules before the matter can be addressed by a court of law.  This is known as exhausting administrative remedies, and the exhaustion principle also generally requires that legal issues must be raised during the administrative process so as to be preserved for judicial review.  About the only time that administrative remedies need not be exhausted is when the plaintiff makes a direct “facial” challenge to the agency’s regulation that is

When an administrative procedure and remedy is statutorily provided, litigants must exhaust their administrative remedies before the state courts have jurisdiction to hear the complaint. In the following Iowa case, a landowner who did not agree with the placement of electrical transmission lines tried to bypass the Iowa Utilities Board’s adjudicative process by filing suit directly in state court.  It didn’t work. 

In a confusing family financial saga, a husband and wife played fast and loose with loans, property transfers, and corporate entities. As a result, the court and jury were left to sort out the tangled web of deceit woven by the couple.

June 6, 2013 | Erika Eckley and Roger McEowen

When co-owned farmland is leased, must all co-owners agree to lease the property?  Must all of them agree to a termination of the lease?  Those are interesting and important questions.  Recently, a federal court in Ohio was asked to address the matter in the context of farmland co-owned by a father and son.

In late 2010, the Obama Administration issued a proposed rule (75 Fed. Reg. 68512, Nov.

A civil case was filed against Monsanto on June 3, 2013 in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas alleging damages to the plaintiff, a Kansas wheat farmer, as a result of genetically modified (GM) wheat contaminating the conventional wheat supply.  Recent news stories have reported the discovery of GM wheat in Oregon. Currently, no GM wheat has been approved anywhere for cultivation, sale or even controlled testing of the product.  Monsanto ceased testing GM wheat in 2005 and destroyed all test plots at that time.

June 3, 2013 | Roger McEowen

In recent weeks there have been several significant tax and agricultural law developments.  Most recently, the President announced that he was suspending enforcement of the employer mandate (and associated penalties for non-compliance) contained in the 2010 health care law until the beginning of 2015 – after the fall 2014 mid-term elections are over. 

May 24, 2013 | Philip E. Harris and Roger McEowen

Farmers are receiving Form 1099-PATR as well as statements about the pass-through of the domestic production activities deduction (DPAD) from their cooperatives. These forms and statements have generated a number of questions from farmers and their income tax preparers. While the rules are confusing, they can have a significant positive effect on the tax returns of members of cooperatives that elect to pass the DPAD through to their members.

In recent years, biotech crops have faced significant legal challenges.  One of those challenges made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010.  That’s the first time the U.S. Supreme Court has ever decided a case involving genetically modified crops.  The case involves review of a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that resulted in a temporary ban on genetically modified alfalfa – Monsanto’s Roundup-Ready Alfalfa.

The plaintiff, a church in Cedar Rapids, sought coverage under its property insurance for an incident that occurred during the 2008 flooding of the Cedar River. Just before the flood waters reached the church, the sewer backed up and flooded the church’s basement. The church sought coverage for the sewer backup under its property insurance policy. The church had no flood insurance and the property insurance policy did not cover damages from floods. After investigating the claim, the insurance company denied the claim contending the damages were caused by the flood.

After suffering an injury on the job site, an injured worker of a subcontractor sued his employer as well as the general contractor for an alleged breach of duty in providing him a safe work environment. On the day of the injury, the worker ascended a lift to the second floor of the worksite and exited the lift without first being tied off to prevent a fall. He stepped onto a sheet of decking that was not secured and fell twenty-three feet to the concrete floor below.

May 17, 2013 | Erika Eckley and Roger McEowen

The Iowa legislature’s current session involves numerous issues of importance to agricultural operators and rural landowners.  We have arranged the bills of interest by category in alphabetical order so that you can find them easier.  There are some important ones this session.  Make sure you provide your elected representative in the Iowa House or Senate with your perspective on issues of importance to you.

Here’s what we see as the most important bills at the present time.

An Indiana farmer has learned the hard way that patent law prevents him from “copying” Monsanto’s patented seed.  The U.S.

The 1985 Farm Bill created a set of rules that federalized the farm products rules that had been adopted in different forms in many different states. Under the federal rule, 7 U.S.C. § 1631(e) of Food Security Act (FSA) (a.k.a.

May 1, 2013 | Roger McEowen

There were several significant developments in May of relevance to agricultural law and taxation.  Of course, the various scandals in Washington, D.C. have captured a lot of attention.  

In Iowa, a constructive trust “arises when a person holding title to property is subject to an equitable duty to convey the property to another, on the ground that the person holding title would be unjustly enriched if the person were permitted to retain the property.” Iowa Code § 633A.2107. The issue of whether a constructive trust existed was reviewed in a recent Iowa case.

April 26, 2013 | Erika Eckley

This case is the husband’s fall-out from a lease that he and his former wife signed with their tenants. The wife’s case was decided in 2010 (a summary of which can be found: Additional (and Contradictory) Farm Lease Provisions Construed). At issue with the lease was a term stating the lease “shall continue until such time as the tenants no longer wish to rent the farm ground or until such time as they purchase the property from the landlords.”

Partnerships in Iowa can be shown by facts establishing joint ownership of property, sharing of gross revenues, and a share of the profits unless these were received in payment of certain expenses. The following case required the court to determine whether a partnership was inadvertently formed by two land and bison owners.

Under the rule of capture, a landowner is entitled to produce and use natural resources, such as gas or water that can be severed from their own land. Once severed, the resource becomes the personal property of the landowner regardless of whether the natural resource had migrated to the place upon which it was captured.

Tort law involves the issue of sub-standard behavior.  In certain situations, a duty exists to conform one’s conduct to a particular standard, and liability can result if failure to attain that standard causes damages to someone else.  So, tort law holds parties accountable for their sub-standard actions or failure to act when they should.  The system, however, loses its impact when parties are not aware of what standard they will be held to before an injury occurs.

Property owners may not create a nuisance by unreasonably interfering with their neighbor’s use and enjoyment of their land. Altering water flow from its natural course from one parcel to another to the detriment of a neighbor can be a nuisance. Iowa surface water drainage law allows a landowner of a dominant tract to drain water in a natural flow onto a servient parcel even if the water flow is increased so long as there is no damage to the landowner of the servient property. The servient landowner cannot prevent the water’s natural flow to the detriment of the dominant estate.

In this case, the father established a revocable trust during his lifetime. After discussion with his children regarding the family’s farmland, he revised the trust to include an option in favor of one of his sons to purchase the farmland.  The trust terms gave the son three years from the date of the father’s death to exercise the option.  Until the earlier of the son’s purchase of the land or the option’s expiration, the children, as beneficiaries, were to receive the income from the land.

Arbitration is favored in Iowa because it enables parties to resolve their disputes while avoiding the expense and delay of traditional civil litigation while relying on experts in the subject matter to review the matter. Because of this policy, arbitration awards are presumed to be valid and enforceable. But, to be upheld, there must have been a valid agreement between the parties to arbitrate and the controversy between the parties must be subject to the agreement.

April 1, 2013 | Roger McEowen

During April there were several major developments in the courts and with the IRS that are important to pay attention to. We highlight those in the case and rulings annotations list on the website and draw your attention to them here.

In the current case, a property owner (group of family members engaged full-time in the insurance business as owners/operators of an agency) took numerous and detailed steps to avoid county zoning rules by utilizing the ag exemption.  Initially, they appealed the county’s denial of ag exemptions from zoning on two parcels of land they owned.

A directive was recently issued to all Iowa clerks of court with the purpose of clarifying how wills are deposited and filed in counties under Chapter 16 of the Iowa Court Rules and pursuant to Iowa Code sections 633.285 – 633.290, and providing uniform procedures to be followed in all clerk of court offices for depositing and filing of wills. The directive can be accessed here: 2013-2 clerk of court procedures re depositing of wills.pdf