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On August 4, 2021, Summit Carbon Solutions, LLC, initiated the legal process to build a proposed 710-mile carbon sequestration pipeline through 30 Iowa counties by filing a request for public informational meetings with the Iowa Utilities Board.

September 4, 2021 | By Audrey Holtkamp*

The H-2A temporary agricultural program allows agricultural employers facing a labor shortage to hire workers from foreign countries. Workers under the program are guaranteed the means of travel, food, and housing from their employers.

August 31, 2021 | Kristine A. Tidgren

As many taxpayers are working to finalize extended returns, many in Congress are working to finalize language for tax reform legislation. Here we provide a brief update on the status of tax reform and what we may expect in the next several weeks.  

August 31, 2021 | Kristine A. Tidgren

For tax years beginning in 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) significantly expanded the child tax credit. It also implemented advance child tax credit payments, and a possibility that taxpayers may face a repayment obligation if the advance payments are too high. Taxpayers facing a potential repayment may wish to unenroll from these advance payments.

August 31, 2021 | Kristine A. Tidgren

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA), Pub L. No. 117-2, significantly enhanced the availability of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) premium tax credit (PTC) to make healthcare acquired on the ACA’s Health Insurance Marketplace more affordable for 2020, 2021, and 2022. These changes could mean significant savings to taxpayers purchasing healthcare coverage on the Marketplace.

August 25, 2021 | Kristine A. Tidgren

The employee retention credit (ERC) has been an important tax credit for many employers in 2020 and 2021. Although a fairly complicated credit, the ERC can be very beneficial to many employers. Recent guidance has clarified several longstanding questions. Here, we provide a brief overview of the credit, as well as a summary of the new guidance.

On August 16, 2021, the Ninth Circuit brought closure to long-standing wetlands litigation between Idaho property owners and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Despite the EPA’s intent to no longer pursue enforcement action, the court held that the case was not moot and that the property consisted of wetlands under the “significant nexus” test.

It’s that time of the year to again think about Iowa’s farm lease auto-renewal law. Tenants or landlords who do not wish to continue a farm lease into 2022 should be aware that their 2021 farm lease will automatically renew under the same terms and conditions if neither party takes action by or before September 1.  

On August 10, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit considered the constitutionality of Iowa’s 2012 “Agricultural Production Facility Fraud” law (2012 law), sometimes called an “ag-gag” law.

Update: On March 31, 2023, the Eastern District of Arkansas granted one of the defendant’s Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The district court concluded that the First Amendment applies to state action, not private actors such as the defendant. Additionally, the Eighth Circuit’s Article III determination did not equate to state action.

On August 19, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed that three subsections of the Kansas Farm Animal and Field Crop and Research Facilities Protection Act (the Act) were unconstitutional. The Act provides criminal sanctions for using fraud or deception to obtain consent to engage in various activities at an animal facility with the intent to damage the facility.

August 19, 2021 | Kitt Tovar Jensen

On August 4, 2021, the Iowa Court of Appeals released an opinion affirming a district court’s finding that a private zoo was a public nuisance.

August 17, 2021 | Kristine Tidgren and Wendong Zhang

In this study conducted in conjunction with the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, Kristine Tidgren and Wendong Zhang analyze Iowa farmland data, including estimated basis and fair market value, to estimate the impact of the proposed tax provisions in the American Families Plan on Iowa farmland owners during lifetime and at death and gift.

August 18, 2021 |

We have been seeing renewed interest and activity associated with a market for carbon credits, in particular credits created through new land management and conservation practices farmers implement on their land. Last week, we participated in a webinar providing information on this emerging topic.

On August 18, 2021, the Iowa Court of Appeals determined the priority of three creditors’ claims against a real estate developer. After the developer defaulted on several mortgages, the bank initiated this foreclosure action claiming to have priority over the mechanic’s liens filed by two subcontractors on the property. Because the subcontractors began work on the properties before the bank recorded the mortgages, the Court of Appeals affirmed that the bank had a junior interest under Iowa Code § 572.18(1).

August 17, 2021 | Audrey Holtkamp*

The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act designated a category for the employment of foreign agricultural workers called H-2A. The modern H-2A Nonimmigrant Visa Program allows agricultural employers to request the temporary admission of foreign workers when anticipating a shortage in the domestic labor pool.

On August 4, 2021, the Iowa Court of Appeals reversed a district court’s entry of summary judgment in favor of farmers seeking title to property through boundary by acquiescence. The court held that a reasonable fact finder could infer from the record that the farmers did not believe they owned the land.

On July 28, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of lawsuit challenging a California law, finding that even though the complaint plausibly alleged that “Proposition 12 will have dramatic upstream effects and require pervasive changes to the pork production industry nationwide,” it did not state a violation of the dormant Commerce Clause under existing precedent.

On August 4, 2021, the Iowa Court of Appeals addressed the validity of a petition filed by landowners to elect private trustees, rather than the county supervisors, to manage their drainage district. This is the second case in two months involving a dispute within this drainage district. This time, the court ruled that the landowners’ petition was valid and that they were entitled to hold their requested election.

On July 26, 2021, the District Court of Hawaii considered whether the County of Maui must obtain a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for releasing pollutants into injection wells a half a mile from the ocean. On remand, this district court, using factors set forth by the Supreme Court, held that the circumstances surrounding how the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility (LWRF) conveyed pollutants through groundwater was the “functional equivalent of a discharge.”

On July 21, 2021, the Iowa Court of Appeals released an opinion involving a CEO’s agreement to repay stolen funds. In reversing a district court decision, the Court of Appeals determined that the beneficiary of a spendthrift trust cannot make an irrevocable transfer of his beneficial interest. Although the CEO’s irrevocable transfer of his interest in the trust was unenforceable, the court ruled that the CEO breached a restitution agreement with the company. As such, the company could initiate collections.

On July 9, 2021, President Biden issued an Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy. The order targets consolidation across many different industries and contains several provisions specifically concerning agricultural markets.

On July 21, 2021, the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed a jury verdict in favor of a daughter in a will contest between two siblings. The dispute arose because the deceased mother had intentionally omitted her son from her will, leaving her farmland to her daughter alone.

On July 21, 2021, the Iowa Court of Appeals issued an opinion involving a subcontractor’s attempt to foreclose on a mechanic’s lien. The district court dismissed the case, finding that the subcontractor had not property provided written notice to the owners. Ruling that the district court went beyond the pleadings to make that determination, the Court of Appeals reversed the case and remanded for further proceedings.

On July 21, 2021, the Iowa Court of Appeals determined that a Township had acquired ownership of a cemetery, as well as an access easement, through adverse possession.

July 1, 2021 | Kristine A. Tidgren

On June 30, 2021, IRS issued Rev. Proc. 2021-14, which details special elections and revocations available to taxpayers with farming loss net operating losses (NOLs) in 2018, 2019, and 2020.

As of July 1, 2021, Florida has a new Right to Farm Act (RTFA). On April 30, 2021, Governor DeSantis of Florida signed SB 88 into law, amending Florida’s RTFA in several ways. See Fla. Stat. § 823.14.

June 29, 2021 | Kristine A. Tidgren

On Friday, June 25, the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion determining the availability of an extension to the small refinery[i] hardship exemption within the renewable fuel standards program (RFS).

On June 23, 2021, the United States Supreme Court held that a 46-year-old California regulation allowing union organizers to access agricultural employers’ property to solicit support for unionization was an uncompensated per se physical taking in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. The 6-3 ruling reversed a Ninth Circuit decision finding that the regulation did not constitute a permanent physical taking.

On June 18, 2021, the Iowa Supreme Court released an opinion involving the proposed buyout of two shareholders of a family farm corporation. After the two plaintiffs petitioned for judicial dissolution, the corporation sought to buy their shares at fair market value. The Iowa Supreme Court found that the transaction costs for asset liquidation should be included in the valuation. Conversely, because this was an S corporation, the Court ruled that potential capital gains liability would create a second tax and thus should be excluded.

On June 18, the Iowa Supreme Court—in a 4-3 decision—dismissed a water quality lawsuit filed against the State of Iowa[i] by two social justice groups, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Food and Water Watch.

On June 16, 2021 the Iowa Court of Appeals issued a ruling involving ownership of a family farm. The plaintiffs’ grandparents attempted to execute a transfer-on-death (TOD) deed conveying the farmland upon their deaths to their three children. Because TOD deeds are not valid in Iowa, the Court of Appeals affirmed that the land must pass through the grantor’s estate.

On June 16, 2021, the Iowa Court of Appeals issued another opinion in a family dispute involving several litigious siblings. This time, the court considered whether Iowa Code § 489.408(1) allows attorney “fees-on-fees” to be awarded. Because the costs arose from the plaintiff seeking indemnification as the LLC manager, the court determined that the additional fees constituted a debt under the statute and should be included in the award.

On June 16, 2021, the Iowa Court of Appeals issued a ruling involving a proposed $3,678,000 drainage district improvement. As stated by the court, “This case falls into the category of be careful what you ask for.”

On June 16, 2021, the Iowa Court of Appeals issued a ruling involving a trustee’s request for reimbursement from his mother’s estate and the family trust. Because there was no evidence of an understanding to repay the expenditures, the court affirmed the denial of reimbursement.

June 16, 2021 | Kitt Tovar Jensen

On June 16, 2021, the Iowa Court of Appeals released an opinion regarding rights to use a driveway easement. The court clarified that without evidence of intent, there can be no public dedication. While the landowner in this case did allow some public use of an easement, this was insufficient to show that he intended to publicly dedicate it.

On June 16, 2021, the Iowa Court of Appeals issued a ruling involving the reclassification of drainage benefits and an assessment for repairs. The court ruled that the board of trustees improperly considered non-drainage benefits to shift some of the costs of repair to a railroad company to prevent painfully large assessments against some agricultural landowners.

On June 16, 2021, the Iowa Court of Appeals released an opinion involving two sisters’ request for attorney fees incurred during their father’s guardianship and conservatorship proceedings. The guardians repeatedly objected to the sisters’ participation while the district court found that the sisters did not have standing to intervene. Therefore, the Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of their request for fees. The case provides a helpful overview of when attorney fees are properly awarded in a guardianship or conservatorship proceeding.

On June 11, 2021, the Iowa Supreme Court released an opinion involving a claim of interference with an inheritance. The year before she passed away, the decedent changed the beneficiaries of her will. On appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed that the new beneficiaries did not have the required knowledge to meet the elements of tortious interference with an inheritance.

June 2, 2021 | Kristine A. Tidgren

On May 28, 2021, the Treasury Department released the "Green Book," a description of revenue proposals within President Biden’s fiscal year 2022 budget.

On May 12, 2021, the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed a summary judgment in favor of the executor in a will contest filed by the decedent’s son. After the son failed to respond to numerous requests for admission during discovery, the district court deemed the unanswered questions admitted and entered judgment for the executor. In affirming the judgment, the Court of Appeals found that there was no evidence of “insane delusions” or undue influence and that the executor would be prejudiced if the court allowed the son to withdraw his answers.

On May 28, 2021, the Iowa Supreme Court released an opinion involving a farm lease dispute between a landlord and tenant. The tenant brought this lawsuit claiming breach of contract and sought attorney fees under the terms of the lease. Because the tenant had given the landlord a reasonable opportunity to pay the debt, the Supreme Court affirmed that the tenant, as the prevailing party, was entitled to attorney fees. The Court ruled, however, that the tenant was not entitled to any fees accruing after rejecting a settlement offer from the landlord.

On May 14, 2021, the Iowa Supreme Court released an opinion regarding a family dispute over an LLC. The district court dissolved the LLC after disagreement broke out between several members. The Supreme Court reversed the dissolution, finding that the district court resolved the issues creating deadlock and that the LLC could fulfill its intended purpose.  

UPDATE: On June 23, a judge from the Middle District of Florida also granted a preliminary injunction halting the debt relief program. Wynn v. Vilsack, 2021 WL 2580678 (M.D. Fla. June 23, 2021).

On May 26, 2021, the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed a divorce decree crediting one spouse with inherited assets. After inheriting farmland, the husband sold the property and used the proceeds to purchase other properties. Because Iowa Code § 598.21 exempts inherited assets from division during a marriage dissolution, the court affirmed that neither the funds from the sale of the farmland, nor the subsequently purchased assets were divisible.

On May 21, 2021, the Iowa Supreme Court determined that a district court had improperly reformed farm leases entered into between a farmer’s conservator and his family members. The decision affirmed an earlier order from the Court of Appeals that had overturned the district court’s modification. On review, the Supreme Court agreed that the conservator had the authority to enter into the leases on behalf of the ward and that the conservator did not breach its fiduciary duty.

The Center for Agricultural and Rural Development recently posted this policy brief discussing the possible implications of the Growing Climate Solutions Act of 2021 on the carbon market for agriculture:

The First Legal Step for an Agricultural Carbon Market is in the Growing Climate Solutions Act of 2021

Update: On June 16, 2021, Governor Reynolds signed this bill into law.

After several years of litigation flowing from dicamba drift damage to cotton, soybeans, and other crops,[i] Monsanto (owned by parent company Bayer) agreed to enter into a Soybean Producers Master Settlement Agreement.

On April 30, 2021, the Iowa Supreme Court released an opinion regarding the property tax assessment of a feed manufacturing facility. At issue was whether two stand-alone corn silos and overhead ingredient bins in the feed mill met the definition of machinery under Iowa Code § 427A.1(1)(e). The Court concluded that only the overhead ingredient bins were an integral part of the manufacturing process qualifying as tax-exempt machinery.