Agricultural law blog serves as educational resource for Texas landowners, producers
by BLAIR FANNIN
Mar 17, 2014 | 1202 views | 1 1 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Agricultural law blog serves as educational resource for Texas landowners, producers

Writer: Blair Fannin, 979-845-2259, b-fannin@tamu.edu

Contact: Tiffany Dowell, 979-845-1941, tdowell@tamu.edu

COLLEGE STATION – Tiffany Dowell, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service economist and agricultural law specialist in College Station, has seen her Texas Agriculture Law Blog continue to gain popularity due to timely topics addressing issues affecting landowners across the Lone Star State.

“I continue to field many questions over the phone or at workshops dealing with oil and gas leases, as well as water law across Texas,” Dowell said. “Questions about pasture and hunting leases are also popular. To keep the latest updated information flowing on these topics, as well as others, the agricultural law blog  is a central source of information that serves as a good reference.”

Tiffany Dowell, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service economist and agricultural law specialist in College Station. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Blair Fannin)

Tiffany Dowell, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service economist and agricultural law specialist in College Station. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Blair Fannin)

The law blog can be found online athttp://agrilife.org/texasaglaw/ .  It features a number of different topics, including updates on current ag-related litigation and events, information about basic laws in Texas, and information on specific legal issues such as pipeline easements and leasing.

In January, the blog had more than 2,100 visitors. The source serves not only farmers and ranchers, but Texas landowners as well, she said.

Site visitors can access information online or sign up for email subscriptions receiving the latest information as soon as it’s posted to the site.

“Every Friday I provide a roundup of the week’s hot topics and news with links to more information,” Dowell said.

She also incorporates questions she receives via email and telephone calls and, while respecting confidentiality, shares those questions and answers with readers.

Some of the most recent topics Dowell has addressed in the blog include:

- Underground trespassing.  Earlier this month, the Texas Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case that could determine whether Texas recognizes underground trespassing. This case involved a  landowner drilling an injection well used to dispose of wastewater 1 mile underground, which then crossed over property lines to a rice farmer’s neighboring land. The case could have major impacts on the oil and gas industry and landowner rights. The Texas Supreme Court is currently considering the case and no decision has been issued.

- Interaction of rights between surface owners and mineral owners. Dowell has addressed what rights the surface owner has in the event the minerals have been leased and an oil company wants to drill on the land.

Other topics Dowell has previously addressed include eminent domain and water law.

“Water law continues to be a hot topic,” Dowell said. “This along with pasture leases is what I’ve been doing a lot of presentations on across the state.”

Prior to joining AgriLife Extension in 2013, Dowell was an associate attorney with the law firm of Peifer, Hanson and Mullins in Albuquerque, N.M. She received her law degree from the University of New Mexico School of Law and bachelor of science in agribusiness from Oklahoma State University.

Dowell grew up on a family farm and ranch in New Mexico.

“Agricultural law has always been my interest and my background has prepared me well for this type of work,” she said.

 

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anonymous
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March 18, 2014
And a prime example of this is the United States Department of Agriculture.

The fact is, the USDA is a web of wasteful giveaways, destructive subsidies, and costly mandates -- many of which don’t even have anything to do with agriculture.

The Department’s total yearly spending has more than doubled over the last decade, most recently reaching $155 billion.

The Christmas list of goodies the USDA gives the agriculture industry in a single year includes:

*** Over $13 billion in direct payments and subsidies to farmers, regardless of how much a recipient actually produces,

*** $14 billion on crop insurance, subsidizing insurers and picking up the tab for anywhere from 38% to 80% of premiums,

*** $390 million on risky loans to farmers whose credit is substandard and can’t qualify for private loans.

Are these lifelines for an ailing profession? Hardly.

Just look at all the goods that don’t get regular subsidies -- meat, fruit, poultry -- and still manage to do just fine.

The fact is, this spending is another form of crony capitalism.

But even worse, in addition to taking our tax dollars, subsidies keep crop prices artificially high and reduce farmers’ incentives to maximize efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

For years, the USDA has spent an additional $6 billion yearly in ethanol subsidies, which encourage farmers to use corn for so-called alternative fuel instead of food.

Reducing the supply of corn for food makes its price skyrocket -- and all for an energy source that is actually one of the least efficient and most expensive.

Congress supposedly ended ethanol subsidies in 2012, but they live on in the form of so-called Renewable Fuel Standards, which in effect require 44% of the year’s corn crop to be used for ethanol.

A recent study predicts that this mandate will actually raise gas prices 30% and diesel prices a whopping 300% by 2015.

And then there’s all the spending that has little or nothing to do with “agriculture,” but lots to do with funding the social welfare bureaucracy.

For example, the USDA is home to the federal government’s massive food-stamp program, which spends an average of over $76 billion a year on what has been long known to be a failure.

Study after study has shown that unlike private charity, this so-called public assistance actually prolongs government dependence instead of reducing poverty and creates massive opportunities for waste and fraud.

In fact, the USDA Inspector General’s office has reported that food-stamp fraud costs as much as $222 million every year.

Then there’s the annual $700 million to “improve the aesthetic character of private land.”

So bloated is the USDA that it spends $2.8 billion just on programs that duplicate what other agencies are already doing, such as $1.15 billion in international food aid (which duplicates the USAID program).

And of course any time there is big-time government, there is big-time fraud.

A recent Government Accountability Office report revealed that between 2008 and 2012, the USDA paid out over $36 million in payments to dead farmers.

But predictably, instead of balancing the budget, the tax-and-spend politicians still want to spend more.

The fact is, the recently-passed Farm Bill will add another full TRILLION dollars to our $17 trillion national debt.

And incredibly, in addition to continuing the aforementioned giveaways, the Farm Bill finds brand-new ways to waste your money:

*** $63 million for projects to combat global warming, such as burying goat manure and studying cow flatulence, under the guise of "value-added producer grants,"

*** $881 million in giveaways to more so-called “green energy” boondoggles,

*** Even a brand-new tax on Christmas trees! This will fund a new government-run marketing board to promote fresh-cut Christmas trees.

The fact is, this kind of nonsense, from the Department of Agriculture to the Department of Energy to the Department of Commerce, is going to continue as long as politicians can get away with spending whatever they want to fund special interests while putting it on a credit card.