Iowan’s have little direct contact with federal land regulators. Afterall, Iowa only has .3% that’s right three tenths of one percent of its land mass owned by the federal government. We have essentially no large active-duty military bases, forest reserves, grazing lands, or few national monuments that impact the land use decisions that private citizens make. In fact, the most federal contact Iowan’s have is probably through the USDA office for FSA and NRCS programs and crop insurance claims.
Other states are not so lucky. Consider Utah, which has over 60% of its land in its state owned by the feds. Feds, as you will no doubt be surprised to learn, do not pay taxes to the states on the ground they own. They do pay something called PILT (Payment in lieu of taxes) but it is not the same. Why is this a big deal, who cares? Well, if you are a county in Utah, you might have 5,000 people living in your county on 5% of the land. Hard to provide for essential services like fire protection, EMS, rescue, and sanitation when 95% of your land base is federal lands. Add in three million visitors to the federal lands per year and it becomes even more taxing… See what I did there? Taxing…
Federal officials in the west have noted that when somebody’s nose itches in Washington, people sneeze cough and gasp for air in the West. That is because of the power of the federal government has on affairs in the west because it owns so much of the ground.
Aside from the impact on locals, the federal government has a virtual alphabet soup of regulatory agencies that dictate who can do what on different types of federally owned land. The Bureau of Land Management controls some of the grazing on federal lands, but the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Forestry Department, and Bureau of Indian Affairs all have seat at the table. Each of these regulatory agencies have to follow their play book as proscribed by the federal register via published rules and congressional acts. Environmental activist groups are keenly aware of this process and watch the promulgated rules, comment on them and lobby for changes that suit their missions and desires. Other groups should but sometimes fail to see the changes coming down the pike via regulatory rule. A good example is endangered species listing. Activists seek to enlarge the list of protected and endangered species as those on the list can isolate and take habitat out of other beneficial uses like grazing and mining.
Water is another property right that Iowa doesn’t really have to deal with the way other states sometimes do. Water rights in the west are not the same system we use in Iowa. Tell a western cattle producer that you irrigate right out of a river with no permit or restriction on gallons and watch their jaw drop.
Be aware of the west and the troubles it has with the federal government. The fed has broad sweeping powers to declare lands federal preserves, restrict private activities because of endangered species listing and establishing new federal facilities. Right now, Iowa is relatively clear of federal entanglements outside of Farm Service Agency programs but that is not a guarantee.
First it was wind and now solar is all the rage. Much like wind easements, solar farm easements are not to be taken lightly nor signed up for without due consideration.
Most of the of the time, the solar farm lease is an exploratory lease that signs up all your acres for a potential installation of solar. You can do quick math on the per acre amount if a farm is installed on your fields and see nothing but easy street ahead. A close reading of the actual terms and conditions could result in the solar farm optioning just a piece of your property and leaving you with an odd shaped parcel to farm around that grows palmer amaranth all season long and frustrates your remaining acres into less productivity, not more.
Here are some things to consider when contemplating your new bright sun shinny day.
Every ag equipment operator has had it happen, a high dollar piece of equipment, with weather threatening on a weekend, is ground to a halt for a simple mechanical failure, like a shear bolt doing its job and well, shearing.
That simple break can bring a series of operations that rely upon each other to stand still unless another shear pin is available. Those are usually stocked after the first time a shear bolt strands the operation.
While shear bolts don’t physically manifest in other portions of an ag operation, they are metaphorically sure do. Taking time to identify in advance breaking points in an operation can cause you the pain and misery of threading a new bolt in the dark, with a little drizzle, while a semi waits to be loaded.
Hear are some “shear bolt” areas that your operation should be prepared to deal with
To the delight of comedians everywhere the FTC is reportedly looking into why McDonald's ice cream machines often seem to be out of order. At first this seems pretty much like a waste of time, and nothing do with ag law, but it does.
It's because the McDonald's franchisees may be restricted from repairing the machines. The technicians are hard to come by and the four-hour cleaning cycle seems overly complex, but if you can’t even hire somebody other than a previously anointed technician, the market doesn’t work right. That is high prices and less quality. The ice cream machine with a repair restriction is legally the same critter as a yield monitor or a tractor that has the same rules. Imagine the delay when only a factory authorized representative can adjust, or trouble shoot a wonky seed tube sensor.
The concept is that an owner of a piece of equipment has right to repair, and the right would be expanded to require manufacturers publish diagnostic tools and documentation they use to fix repair their goods. This concept has traction in some states out east, where it was on a the ballot in Massachusetts as measure requiring data on cars that manufactures don’t like to make public. In fact, 27 states have kicked around right to repair measures in various formats.
Another concept being pushed is requiring manufacturers to create products that can be easily fix. Consider Apple products and how they are seemingly impossible to access, like the iPods. They have small batteries in them that fail after a number of years and right now, you or a third party that attempts to replace them will void the warranty if you do manage to figure out how to open them up. The other option is to toss them and buy new, which environmental advocates are against.
Who would be against this? The people who build things don’t want their products easily copied and they raise concerns that non authorized non trained people modifying their product makes the product dangerous in some cases.
Ag relies upon tech and this issue is as important to the future of ag as climate change, land use, and taxation.
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