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March 9, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

The legal wrangling over the validity of local ordinances seeking to stop the growing of Genetically Engineered Organisms (GMO) continues in Hawaii. At the center of the litigation is United States Magistrate Judge Kurren, who, last Thursday, ruled that a state court action seeking a declaration that a Maui County GMO ban is legally valid was properly removed to federal court.

Since 1985, the Iowa Supreme Court has recognized an implied warranty of workmanlike construction for homeowners. The purpose of the warranty is to address the disparity in bargaining power and expertise between the consumer and a sophisticated builder-vendor. It provides the homeowner a cause of action against the builder where the house, when sold, was not reasonably fit for its intended purpose or had not been constructed in a good and workmanlike manner. 

March 6, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

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

March 5, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

Last fall, we fielded a number of calls at the Center from Iowa landlords whose tenants failed to make their rental payments on time. In most of these cases, the tenant was offered the right to make the yearly payment in two installments, one at the beginning of the lease term and the other six months later.

March 3, 2015 | Roger A. McEowen

A recent decision by the Illinois Court of Appeals involved a small farm that a town tried to zone out of existence.  The case involved the town's ability to zone agricultural activities and the state's right-to-farm law.  The plaintiff, a small town of 230 people, sued the defendants, a married couple, for violating a town ordinance which declared commercial farming within the town boundaries

March 2, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

In a last-minute announcement, the IRS has declared that farmers waiting for a corrected 1095-A will have until April 15 to file their returns and pay their taxes.

February 27, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

As we near the end of February, several key Farm Program deadlines are looming.

February 25, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

The Iowa Court of Appeals recently affirmed a legal malpractice judgment against a law firm that represented an Iowa bank in an unsuccessful accounting malpractice action. The court determined that, in addition to damages stemming from the unsuccessful lawsuit, the bank was entitled to collect the attorney fees paid to the law firm to prosecute the accounting malpractice action.

February 25, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

Iowa Governor Branstad signed S.F. 257 into law today, raising the Iowa excise tax on fuel for motor vehicles (including gasoline and diesel fuel) by 10 cents per gallon. Iowans will likely face the increase by Sunday, the first day of the first month following the enactment of the law.

February 24, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

We learned late last week that Healthcare.gov sent out about 800,000 incorrect 1095-A Forms to taxpayers. Apparently, some states with exchanges, including California, did the same thing. These forms incorrectly reported the premium amount for the second-lowest priced Silver plan from 2015, not 2014.

February 23, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

A recent Iowa Court of Appeals decision should alert landlords of all kinds to their potential premises liability to third parties. Although the basic Iowa rule is that a lessor is not liable for injuries occurring after a lessee has taken possession of the property, there are a number of exceptions to the rule.

February 17, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has taken a large first step toward allowing operators to legally fly small “drones” or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for commercial purposes on a widespread basis in the United States.

The U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments next month in a case that could ultimately be the death knell for the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The case involves the Premium Assistance Tax Credit (PATC) of I.R.C. §36B, and the question before the Court is whether the credit is available to a taxpayer who acquires health insurance from a federal exchange.

February 19, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

I'm not trying to sound ungrateful for the much-needed guidance we received from IRS yesterday in Notice 2015-17. Relief from penalties, even if limited, is always welcome.

When I was in journalism school, my professors had a policy that if you spelled a name wrong in a story, you flunked the assignment. The Iowa Court of Appeals recently ruled that if you describe the wrong property in your quiet title petition, you get your case dismissed.

IRS has just issued Notice 2015-17, which provides some important guidance regarding the dreaded IRC § 4980D excise tax (for violating Affordable Care Act market reforms) and its applicability to small employers. It also provides some limited relief from the penalty in certain circumstances. Following is a summary of the guidance.

February 16, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

The FAA released proposed rules on February 15, 2015, that would, if implemented, finally open the door for the use of small unmanned aircraift systems (UAS) in agriculture and other industries.

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 weighed in on the important issue of valuing a closely held family corporation in a dissolution proceeding. Calling such valuations an “inherently difficult endeavor,” the court landed on a 20 percent marketability discount and increased the equalization payment the husband was to pay the wife.

February 11, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

The Iowa Court of Appeals decided another boundary by acquiescence case on February 11, this time finding that no such boundary was established.

In a 2-1 decision, the Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled that Indiana law does not prohibit high-fence hunting of white-tailed deer, a practice also known as “canned hunting.” Hunters engaged in high-fence hunting shoot the animals on property enclosed by a fence. This practice often involves white-tail deer bred to have large antlers.

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.   

The Iowa Court of Appeals has upheld a judgment of $1.4 million in punitive damages against a landlord who intentionally interfered with his tenant’s ability to rent other farm properties.  While punitive damages are rarely awarded, Iowa law does allow them when it's shown by clear and convincing evidence that a party has "willfully and wantonly disregarged the rights or safety of another." 

January 28, 2015 | Roger A. McEowen

Two farm-related organizations, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Pork Producers' Council, sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Administrative Procedures Act to bar EPA's release of member information involving physical addresses and details concerning the members' operation of Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).  

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. 

January 15, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

On January 8, 2015, the Des Moines Board of Water Works Trustees (DMWW) voted unanimously to send a notice of intent to file a Clean Water Act citizen lawsuit against the county supervisors of Sac, Buena Vista, and Calhoun Counties in Iowa. 

January 12, 2015 | Donald L. Swanson*

Law school graduation occurred in May of 1980, and the law firm job interview concluded with this question: “Don, would you like to do bankruptcy?!”  Figuring I needed a job, “Yes,” came the response.  And so began my career as a bankruptcy attorney in Omaha, Nebraska.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled that manure applied to fertilize a field in the usual course of a farming business was transformed into a “pollutant” when it seeped into adjoining neighbors’ wells. 

2015 brings a new year and a look back at the most significant agricultural law and taxation developments of 2014.  It’s difficult to narrow the developments down to the “Top 10” with so many to choose from.  

The year has concluded with much debate and discussion regarding the future of several tax breaks upon which small businesses have come to depend. After several permanent provisions were floated and rejected, the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 (H.R. 5771) was finally signed into law on December 19, 2014. For the most part, this highly anticipated legislation merely extends the expiration of numerous 2013 provisions through the end of 2014, and is hardly the certainty for which taxpayers were hoping.  Nonetheless, H.R.

December 11, 2014 | Breandan Donahue*, Contributor

With the end of the year at hand, it is an appropriate time to review your estate plan to make sure it is still up-to-date.  Here are a handful of tips to consider:

Under Iowa law, the terms of a power of attorney (POA) are strictly construed. Thus, for an agent to have the power to do a certain act on behalf of the principal, the POA must expressly grant that power. 

November 25, 2014 | Kristine A. Tidgren

As 2014 draws to a close, several weeks remain during which farmers and other taxpayers can still take action that will impact their 2014 tax returns. Although some producers may find their incomes lower in 2014 than in recent years, they may still seek ways to reduce income for the year or to defer it to future, potentially lower-income years. 

Every partnership (defined as a joint venture or any other unincorporated organization) that conducts a business is required to file a return for each tax year that reports the items of gross income and allowable deductions. If a partnership return is not timely filed (including extensions) or is timely filed but is inadequate, a monthly penalty is triggered that equals $195 times the number of partners during any part of the tax year for each month (or fraction thereof) for which the failure continues.

November 10, 2014 | Kristy S. Maitre and Kristine A. Tidgren

This article (updated November 6, 2014) discusses the Affordable Care Act's impact on more-than-two percent shareholders of S Corporations. Discussed is the ACA's impact on FICA and the IRC section 162(l)(5) self-employment health insurance premium deduction. This article also addresses the potential wide-ranging impact of new DOL Q&As.

Not since the farm crisis of the 1980’s have droves of farmers been asking how to find an attorney as they make their financial plans for the 2015 farming season.  The early decision to seek legal counsel may significantly benefit a farm’s continued operation, and selecting the right attorney to guide a farm through the maze of legal obstacles is a crucial step in that process.  Delaying consultation with legal and tax experts will not make the problem go away.  Delay will invariably lead to the farmer having fewer options for a successful reorganization.

The Iowa Court of Appeals has agreed that a contractor did not obtain a mechanic’s lien because he did not “substantially complete” the work he agreed to perform in renovating the outside of an old brick building. 

The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Iowa has issued another opinion clarifying the scope of the agricultural supply dealer’s lien under Iowa Code Chapter 570A. This time, the feed supplier prevailed.

Syngenta lawyers have been busy. And the legal fallout from China’s rejection of Syngenta’s Agrisure Viptera, a genetically-modified (GM) corn product, does not look to end any time soon. At this point, the only sure prediction is that there will be no true winners in this battle.

The debtors were dairy farmers who owned Iowa farmland. In 2007, they hired the defendant to custom farm their property. In 2007, the debtors also received a loan from the plaintiff’s Wisconsin farm implement company. In exchange for the loan, the debtors gave the implement company a mortgage on some of their farmland.

The presence of unharvested crops in a decedent’s estate raises income tax and, if the estate is large enough, estate tax issues.  The matter can be complicated if the decedent’s farmland was rented and crop rent had accrued but had not yet been received as of the date of the decedent’s death.

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 farm

October 3, 2014 | Roger A. McEowen and Kristine A. Tidgren

A California Federal District Court judge has dismissed for lack of standing a challenge brought by major egg producing states to a California law that would dictate methods of production for all eggs sold in California.

Another federal court has ruled that persons purchasing health insurance through a federal exchange are not entitled to receive a premium tax credit under the Affordable Care Act (the Act). On September 30, 2014, an Oklahoma federal court said that the IRS regulation illegally expanded the availability of the credit to persons not entitled to it under the Act’s plain language. State of Oklahoma v. Burwell, No. CIV-11-30-RAW (E.D. Okla. Sept. 30, 2014).

The IRS issued its annual Notice announcing those areas that are eligible for an extension of the replacement period for livestock that farmers must sell because of severe weather conditions.  

September 18, 2014 | Kristine A. Tidgren

A recent case from the Iowa Court of Appeals highlights the intricate interplay among procedural rules and should remind attorneys and parties that time deadlines for filing appeals allow no room for error. Finding that the rules were not properly followed in the case at hand, the Iowa Court of Appeals recently dismissed an appeal from a partial summary judgment as untimely.

September 18, 2014 | Roger A. McEowen

In a case the court compared to the novel Bleak House because of the parties’ protracted underlying litigation history, the Iowa Court of Appeals determined that a will provision attempting to prevent beneficiaries from partitioning devised property was unenforceable.

Although the law has been in place for more than two years, not everyone is yet on board. It is important that farmers, ranchers, and other small employers evaluate their health reimbursement plans to ensure that they comply with Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirements. 

August 27, 2014 | Roger A. McEowen

One of the common questions that we receive involves how to structure the business.  Traditionally, entity choice involved selecting from a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation.

In Sissel v. United States Department of Health and Human Services, et al., a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the individual mandate contained in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) against a constitutional challenge based in the Origination Clause. 

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