A comprehensive summary of today’s judicial, legislative, and regulatory developments in agriculture and food. Email important additions to: camarigg at uark.edu

JUDICIAL: Includes SNAP, landowner liability, water rights and ESA issues.

In Patterson v. Illinois, No. 15-1435, 2016 WL 3961719 (C.D. Ill. July 21, 2016), plaintiff claimed defendant’s (Department of Human Services) hearing process was unconstitutionally applied to him and that his due process rights were violated when he was not permitted to cross-examine an investigator during a DHS hearing regarding termination of plaintiff’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Case dismissed because it was untimely filed and barred by sovereign immunity against DHS and its officials. Furthermore, plainitff’s claim did not “fall under any exceptions to states’ Eleventh Amendment immunity.”

LISA PENUNURI AND BARRY SIEGWART, Appellants, v. SUNDANCE PARTNERS LTD., SUNDANCE HOLDINGS LLC, SUNDANCE DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, ROBERT REDFORD, REDFORD 1970 TRUST, AND ROCKY MOUNTAIN OUTFITTERS LC, Appellees., 2016 UT App 154, concerned landowner liability for negligence claims involving a guided horse trail ride. On the trail ride at issue, potentially dangerous gaps formed between horses and the plaintiff fell off her horse and sued the land owner for gross negligence. Court found no evidence of gross negligence and plaintiffs’ expert testified that “there is no evidence in this case indicating that [defendant’s] guide … exercised no care or acted in willful disregard for the care of others.” Trial court ruling for defendant affirmed.

HEAL UTAH, ET AL., Appellants, v. KANE COUNTY WATER CONSERVANCY DISTRICT, SAN JUAN COUNTY WATER CONSERVANCY DISTRICT, BLUE CASTLE HOLDINGS INC., AND KENT JONES, Appellees., 2016 UT App 153, considered a district court’s approval of two applications requesting to “change points of diversion and the nature of water use appropriated” to two water districts. On appeal, plaintiff argued district court erred when it approved the change applications.  The court reasoned that considering whether a change application meets statutory criteria “is a mixed question of law and fact,” and the district court is given “significant, but not broad, discretion” in applying law to the facts using the “reason-to-believe standard.” Defendant provided evidence the project “is feasible, including a detailed business plan, purchase contracts for land, lease agreements for the Districts’ water rights, and evidence that shows it has had discussions with eighteen utilities expressing an interest in the plant’s power.” Judgment for defendants affirmed.

Native Ecosystems Council v. Marten, No. CV 15-98-M-DLC, 2016 WL 3906621 (D. Mont. July 14, 2016) involved a forest project authorizing 502 acres of commercial thinning and over 2,500 acres of commercial logging to salvage lodgepole pine. Plaintiffs argued the project violates the Endangered Species Act (ESA) because it does not use the “best available science” and because Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) “failed to support its surrogate measures of incidental take.” Plaintiffs failed to show mistakes by FWS and court found no ESA violation, stating, “This Court cannot tell the agency, which is better situated to evaluate and implement scientific data, exactly how to perform a task delegated to it by Congress.” Summary judgment for defendant.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY: Rule establishing a tolerance for residues of etoxazole in or on soybean seed. Valent U.S.A. Corporation requested this tolerance under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Info here.