This week's news includes a report that the North Dakota Industrial Commission is eight months behind in publishing meeting minutes. The Industrial Commission is comprised of the governor, agriculture commissioner and attorney general. Amongst other jobs, the Industrial Commission is tasked with regulating oil and gas development, the North Dakota State Mill and Elevator and the Bank of North Dakota.
I am a fan of axioms, statements that are just generally accepted as true, no matter what the situation. One of my favorite axioms is "You can't judge a book by its cover." I am also a fan of great movie lines. One of my favorites is from the 1950 classic "All About Eve," where Bette Davis famously says "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night."
Do you remember Earl Butz? I've been thinking about him lately. Butz was the Secretary of Agriculture under President Richard Nixon in the 1970s. Described in a Feb. 8, 2008, Grist article by Tom Philpott as "blustering, boisterous and often vulgar", Earl Butz was an American original, a character with a vision who — it turns out — had a pretty accurate prediction of the future of agriculture in some respects.
As a farmer who also practices law, I was delighted to see a story recently on areavoices.com about ditch mowing. Yes, ditch mowing. In my former career as a state's attorney, one of my favorite duties was serving as counsel for the County Weed Board, and I still follow legislation and/or current events pertaining to the topic. To me, county weed boards are an ongoing example of why local government efforts are typically the most efficient expenditure of taxpayer resources.
The recent tax bill out of Washington has caused a bit of a stir with its "199A tax reform provision." According to some commentators, this provision causes favoritism for cooperatives over other corporate grain buyers. A recent Agweek article quoted one grain manager as saying there is an artificial 15 to 20 cent per bushel advantage held by co-ops over non-co-ops.
In a time where some pollsters are reporting gains in President Donald Trump's approval ratings and where other news abounds concerning midterm elections — still 9 months away — it is interesting to see where policy is intersecting with agriculture. There was news this past week that affects the U.S. Department of Agriculture's budget, and that news had to do with a Trump administration proposal regarding food stamps.
Groundhog day is coming up. Spring will soon be upon us. With the melting of the snow comes the opening up of snowed in roads, and farmers will soon be moving about and getting ready for planting. Last year I had a farmer come in and ask me about liability for maintaining an abandoned farmstead he owned. Some kids had a bonfire party on the property, and one of the kids ended up getting injured while on his property. I was thinking about that farmer the other day.
Contract law is interesting. Most farmers are well-versed in the nuances of "offer" and "acceptance," or what is and isn't "valid consideration" for a contract. At the very least, we are able to toss basic contract law terms around and sound like we know what we are saying.
As we begin 2018, it's interesting to look back on where farming has been recently and where farming is going. For me, one of the most interesting things to reflect upon is the farm economy.
Much has been said about the federal tax relief legislation and what it really means for farmers. Although the final version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act hasn't yet been signed into law, the framework of the tax relief legislation is clear enough to provide guidance for farmers to plan ahead. As an initial matter, the final legislation does provide across-the-board rate reduction for individuals and families.