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Welcome to March 1, a day with much significance for farmers:

  • Farm Tax Returns Due
  • Remember to Perfect Your Landlord's Lien
February 28, 2016 | Kristine A. Tidgren

Parents often make lifetime gifts to their children, often as part of a farm or business transition planning strategy.  These gifts often come under great scrutiny when the party receiving the gift is divorced from his or her spouse. During the dissolution proceeding, the spouse often argues that the gifted property should be subject to a fair division between the parties.

It is looking much more promising that the Iowa Legislature will eventually decide to retroactively integrate federal tax extenders from the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act) into Iowa law for the 2015 tax year. Farmers have been offered an extension while we wait to see if a coupling bill emerges from the Legislature.

February 25, 2016 | Kristine A. Tidgren

As of this writing, it is difficult to predict whether the Iowa Legislature will eventually decide to retroactively integrate federal tax extenders from the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act) into Iowa law for the 2015 tax year. It is certain, however, that the lack of certainty has caused great angst, primarily among preparers and farmers.

In a divided 2-1 opinion, a three-judge panel ruled yesterday that the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has original jurisdiction to determine the validity of the Clean Water Rule.

During it's last public meeting on February 19, the Iowa Utilities Board stated that it will present its order regarding the Dakota Access LLC petition to build a crude oil pipeline across Iowa on March 9 or 10. That order will also determine whether Dakota Access will be allowed to exercise eminent domain over the nearly 300 tracts of land for which voluntary easements have not been granted.

February 11, 2016 | Kristine A. Tidgren

Although recent talk of eminent domain has centered on high profile projects such as the Dakota Access pipeline, a less discussed provision of Iowa law confers a narrow power of eminent domain upon private citizens in certain cases where a landowner has a “land locked” parcel. A recent case from the Iowa Court of Appeals details how this law is applied.

January 26, 2016 | Kristine A. Tidgren

This month has seen several important developments in the Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) lawsuit against drainage districts in three northwest Iowa counties. On January 11, Judge Bennett ruled that the Iowa Supreme Court should decide four questions of Iowa law implicated by the lawsuit's tort and constitutional claims.

January 26, 2016 | Kristine A. Tidgren

In Iowa we see a large variation in the way farm leases are structured. Many are oral, one-year leases that automatically renew from year to year. Others are written, five-year leases that must be recorded. And still others have their own unique approach. The Iowa Supreme Court recently reviewed one such lease and found it constitutionally infirm.

January 22, 2016 | Kristine A. Tidgren

A recent case from the Iowa Court of Appeals should again remind landowners to protect their boundaries or lose them.

January 19, 2016 | Kristine A. Tidgren

As March 1 approaches, many landlords will see new tenants farming their property. Others will face lingering disputes from last crop year. This is a good time to review several important rights and obligations of landlords and tenants under Iowa farm leases.

January 12, 2016 | Kristine A. Tidgren

Yesterday saw a big development in the Des Moines Water Works case against three northwest Iowa drainage districts. Judge Bennett certified four questions of Iowa law to the Iowa Supreme Court.:

The Iowa Supreme Court issued an opinion today that may change the way many cases against insurance companies are tried. Because insurance coverage and farming operations go hand in hand, agricultural law attorneys should pay attention to Villarreal v.

Regrets exist, for many farmers and bankers from the 1980s Farm Crisis days, over opportunities-lost.

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.

IRS Notice 2015-87, issued December 17, 2015, provides the latest IRS guidance regarding the Affordable Care Act's impact on employer health reimbursement plans. Although IRS unveiled no new “bombshells” in the Notice, it does provide further clarification important to small employers offering health care reimbursement arrangements to their employees. 

December 21, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

On December 18, President Obama signed into law an 887-page package of legislation designed to fund the government through 2016. Called the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016, the legislation made permanent or further extended many tax breaks important to farm producers and small businesses.

December 20, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

On Friday, December 18, 2015, President Obama signed into law a massive bill authorizing $1.1 trillion in spending and $680 billion in tax cuts. While we have become accustomed to waiting until year-end (or sometimes new year) to see already-expired tax cuts temporarily revived, this new law actually makes permanent (or largely extends) several important tax breaks.

December 14, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced a new rule today requiring registration of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) weighing more than 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds.. The official weight of the UAS includes any payloads, such as cameras.

December 10, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

The defendants included a husband and wife who owned a number of poultry-related companies. They each owned a 50 percent share of an LLC they established in August of 2010. The purpose of the LLC was to purchase eggs for hatching, coordinate delivery of hatched chicks to contracted growers, and coordinate the delivery of the grown birds to a family-owned poultry processing company.

November 23, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

Last week, Syngenta filed a third-party complaint in the massive multi-district litigation (MDL) pending in Kansas. In its complaint, Syngenta fiercely denies its liability to plaintiffs in the pending actions, calling the litigation an “unprecedented attempt by Producer and Non-Producer Plaintiffs to assert that it was somehow a tort for Syngenta to sell a genetically modified corn seed called Viptera in the United States even though Syngenta had already received all required approvals from three U.S. federal regulatory agencies.”

November 13, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

The Iowa Court of Appeals recently affirmed a dissolution decree involving a self-employed farmer and his ex-wife who was employed off the farm.

As of October 1, 2015, the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) was revised to regulate the use of antibiotics that are medically important in the treatment of food animals. The new implementation will require veterinary supervision with the use of all medically important feed grade antibiotics used in food-producing animals.

October 29, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

The Tax Court recently found that a petitioner had not made a taxable gift in 1972 when he transferred stock to his children to settle a family lawsuit.

October 28, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

The Iowa Court of Appeals issued another boundary by acquiescence case today, affirming a district court order establishing such a boundary between two residential properties.

The case originated under the oft-applied Iowa law, Iowa Code § 650.14:

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.

October 25, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

We regularly receive questions about Iowa’s anti-corporate farming laws. What are they? Whom do they affect? What are the penalties for violation? This month, we’ll provide a general overview of Iowa’s corporate farming restrictions, attempting to address these and other basic issues.

The deadline for dairy producers to enroll in the Margin Protection Program for Dairy for 2016 coverage has been extended through November 20, 2015. The 2014 Farm Bill established the Margin Protection Program for Dairy, a voluntary risk management program for dairy producers. The program, authorized through December 31, 2018, offers financial assistance to participating dairy farmers when the margin falls below the coverage level chosen by the producer.

October 21, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

Another development arose this week in the Des Moines Water Works lawsuit. The Board of Water Works Trustees (DMWW) filed its (very long) resistance to the drainage districts’ motion for partial summary judgment, which the districts had filed on September 24.

October 19, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

The U.S. Secretary of Transportation held a press conference today announcing that a new registration system for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) (including hobby aircraft) should be in place by mid-December.

The plaintiff was a trucker who entered into an oral agreement in 2001 with a milk cooperative. The trucker agreed to pick up milk from dairy farms and deliver it to the cooperative’s plant. Under the oral agreement, the cooperative was to pay the trucker a certain amount per gallon of milk delivered, plus $100 for each delivery trip.

While the Social Security Act sets forth an automatic increase in Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits when the Consumer Price Index  (CPI)  warrants, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has announced that the Social Security wage base will stay at $118,500 for 2016.  That means that the tax will be 6.2% on the first $118,500 of wages, thereby capping the tax at $7,347.00.  That's in addition to the 1.45% Medicare tax on the first $200,000 of wages (MFJ) and the 2.35% Medicare tax (the normal 1.45% Medicare tax plus the additional 0.9% Obamacare tax) on all w

October 9, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has now stayed the Clean Water Rule nationwide. This temporary ruling brings uniformity to the patchwork of enforcement that has existed since the Rule’s August 28 effective date.

A federal judge from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia recently granted summary judgment to the EPA in a lawsuit challenging the agency’s decision to withdraw a proposed rule impacting confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

The drainage districts being sued by the Board of Water Works Trustees (DMWW) have filed their first dispositive motion. On September 24, the districts filed a motion asking the court to enter summary judgment in favor of the drainage districts on the common law claims alleged by DMWW.

September 29, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

We last updated you on the status of the Syngenta litigation in April. This month we’ll update you on several key developments that have occurred since April, primarily this month’s ruling on Syngenta’s motion to dismiss. We’ll also provide a brief roadmap as to possible next steps in this complex legal battle.

September 29, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

The new Clean Water Rule (often called the “waters of the United States” or WOTUS rule) went into effect August 28, 2015. Well, partially that is. The much-publicized Rule that establishes the formal definition of waters subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act went into effect in 37 states on August 28. Landowners in the other 13 states—which include North Dakota, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Wyoming—are still subject to the old definition of jurisdictional waters.

Iowa tax law provides for a 100 percent deduction for qualifying capital gains.  The most basic of the qualifying elements for the deduction requires the ability to count to 10 – or five, once retirement occurs.  However, counting to 10 (or five) apparently is not easy for some taxpayers (and their legal counsel). 

September 2, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

Yesterday, a federal judge for the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas vacated the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) final rule[i] in which the agency listed the lesser prairie-chicken as a "threatened" species.

August 28, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

On the eve of the official effective date of the new Clean Water Rule (Fed. Reg. 37,054-127,), a North Dakota federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction to stop the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from enforcing it. The court stated:

August 27, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

As we’ve discussed in prior articles, the Clean Water Rule defines “waters of the United States” or those waters subject to the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. For land subject to CWA jurisdiction, section 402 authorizes the EPA to issue permits for storm water runoff, and section 404 authorizes the Corps to issue permits for the discharge of fill material. This definition includes a number of exclusions. 

August 27, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

Six months ago we explained the new rules the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had just proposed for integrating small commercial unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or “drones” into U.S. airspace. These rules, if finalized, will allow businesses—including farms—to use UAVs in their commercial operations, subject to certain safety requirements.

August 21, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

It’s a rather small detail, but those small details often make all the difference when it comes to litigation. And that’s what happened in a recent case from the Iowa Court of Appeals.

August 20, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

The Iowa Court of Appeals recently issued an opinion demonstrating a sometimes misunderstood feature of an occurrence-based liability policy: Insurance coverage ends when the policy lapses. In other words, if a business owner is covered by a liability policy when it performs faulty work, it may not be covered for damage stemming from that work if the damage occurs after the policy expires.

“My handshake is my word” is an admirable philosophy. We should all hope to deal with people true to their word. Even when uttered with the greatest sincerity, however, “my handshake is my word” is not an admirable approach to business.  Unfortunately, it’s not always clear what “my word” is, even when two honest parties are involved.

August 12, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

Perhaps the most misunderstood portion of Iowa farm lease law is that governing the proper termination of a lease. Iowa law is unique in that under Iowa Code §562.6, a farm lease renews automatically—under the same terms and conditions as the original lease—absent specific action by one or both parties to the lease. The automatic renewal provision applies to both oral and written leases.

You've probably heard that Congress passed a short-term bill to keep the nation’s highway trust fund on life support through October of this year.  The House passed H.R. 3236 by a vote of 385-34 on Wednesday and the Senate passed the bill by a vote of 91-4 yesterday. The Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015 became law when President Obama signed it on July 31, 2015.

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.

July 24, 2015 | Roger A. McEowen

Of importance to tax practitioners is what the Congress might do with the tax provisions that expired at the end of 2014 that need legislation to extend them through 2015 or beyond.  Of these expired provisions are expense method depreciation and bonus depreciation.

Agricultural law is often “law by the exception.”  For a variety of reasons, the law views many aspects of agricultural production as significantly different from other industrial enterprises.  As a consequence, in such situations general legal rules have been deemed inappropriate as applied to agriculture.