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National Ag Law Center’s Top Legal Issues to Watch in the New Year

The National Agricultural Law Center, based in Arkansas, called 2023 a year for significant developments and changes on the legal front. Harrison Pittman, director of the Ag Law Center, says there are a lot of issues they’ll be keeping a close eye on in 2024.

Pittman says, “I think the Endangered Species Act and particularly its relationship to pesticide registration and re-registration and how that looks going forward, I think that’s one that we’re going to spend a tremendous amount of time on in 2024. It was a big deal in 2023, but that is a major shift in that part of the ag industry, and it gets one that’s going to continue in a big way in 2024. I would keep a close eye on the litigation side concerning pesticides. There are still quite a few cases going on. They’re not all being decided at the same point. But there have been a few over the last couple of years – at least one recently – where the verdict has been very financially significant at least before appeals take place.”

The Waters of the U.S., or WOTUS, will still be something to watch in the new year. He says, “I will keep a good eye on that one. That whole issue is important. But the traditional part of it, like the EPA Corps of Engineers’ jurisdiction over what is The Waters of the United States will remain important. The part that I would watch is what is happening in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Sackett case that came out in the spring of last year because I think that triggers activity in state proposals that cut both ways.”

The aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision on California’s Proposition 12 will be another legal issue in 2024. Pittman says, “The third one that would be important to watch is the fallout in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision on Proposition 12, which is the California animal welfare law that basically opened the door up to the degree to which they might be able to regulate what would otherwise often be considered commerce that would otherwise be left in the U.S. Congress to regulate. So, I think that could spawn a lot of legislative proposals, both agricultural-related and non-agricultural-related, and probably will since we’re coming into sessions around the country. Now that we’re getting into January, I’d expect that to pick up.”

Foreign land ownership will be something to watch this year as well. Pittman says, “We’re going to be several states advance bills again this year. Because there have been numerous federal proposals but they haven’t had a good vehicle yet legislatively to get enacted, I would expect something at the federal level to be enacted as potentially part of the farm bill process, which is, you know, within basically delay with a one-year extension. But they’re still working on a multi-year farm bill that could happen there, or parts of these federal proposals could find their way into an appropriations bill should we be able to get one, hopefully without a government shutdown.”

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