Guest column: Knowing agriculture law is important

What do: genetically modified organism labels, endangered species, water rights and drones have in common? They are all part of the changing face of agriculture that covered by agricultural laws.

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, Denton County will be hosting a free Agricultural Law meeting starting promptly at 6:30 pm, June 15 at Ben E. Keith, 2801 I-35, Denton.

Tiffany Dowell Lashmet, assistant professor and extension specialist, specializing in agricultural law with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, will be speaking on various hot topics in agriculture such as water rights, fencing law, Waters of the United States (WOTUS), federal regulations, drones. There will be time for your questions.

Contact Robin Hill at 940-349-2894 to preregister and put your name in for the meal.

Tiffany has co-authored such publications as the Five Strands: A Landowner’s Guide to Fence Law in Texas, Ranchers’ Agricultural Leasing Handbook: Grazing, Hunting & Livestock Leases and Big Data and Drones on the Farm.  

Tiffany also publishes Texas Agriculture Law Blog. Her blog (located at was named as one of the top 100 legal blogs in the nation three years in a row by the American Bar Association (ABA) Journal.

Her blog’s popularity is due to the outstanding job she does explaining complex legal issues and their effects on agriculture.

As I was visiting with Tiffany the other day, she said, “It’s important to do your homework and understand your legal rights and obligations. You might be able to avoid getting into a situation where you need a lawyer.” However, if you find yourself in need of a lawyer, here are some ideas to consider:

* Lawyers should not be seen as the last resort in an emergency. Lawyers can help people avoid trouble, not just get them out of it!  In addition to providing legal advice, lawyers can assist you finding additional resources for your operation, assist with locating public relations firms, and help ensure you have good accountants and consultants.

* In the past few years, agricultural operations have been diversifying in order to stay profitable. Farmers and ranchers are exploring alternative income strategies like corn mazes, hunting leases, etc.  Each of these have different legal issues that can affect your operation. Since no operation is exactly alike, there is no one-size-fits all approach for agricultural law issues – each lease, business plan, estate plan, etc., must be adapted to fit your operation.

* The day of the “verbal agreement” is over. It is critical that farm leases be in writing and detailed. Many of the people that own the land don’t farm or ranch.  If we’re not detailed and careful, we may find ourselves in court over a legal issue that should have been covered.

* We also have more and more organizations who wish to dictate how farmers and ranchers manage their operations. While the changes these groups want may “appear” to be sound, their changes may not be grounded in science and be best management practices. These organizations may take an opposing viewpoint and enact laws that affect farmers and ranchers. After all, farming and ranching families comprise just two percent of the population.

* Another thing to remember is that just like agricultural consultants, lawyers specialize in agricultural related topics. I wouldn’t expect an attorney that helps me with a dispute with the complex water law case to be able to assist with my estate plan. Make sure that you choose the lawyer you are going to add to your team wisely.

Educational programs of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, genetic information or veteran status.

The Texas A&M University System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the County Commissioners Courts of Texas Cooperating. Persons with disabilities needing accommodations for effective participation in the meeting should contact Denton County AgriLife Extension office at least a week in advance of the meeting to request mobility, visual, hearing or other assistance.

David Annis is the Denton County Extension Agent Agriculture & Natural Resources

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