Articles Posted in Agriculture Law

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In 2009, 2010, and 2011, the Dowling Family Partnership and Dowling Brothers Partnership (collectively, the Partnerships) entered into a series of cash farm leases with Midland Farms, LLC. The 2012 crop year lease created a right of first refusal held by the Partnerships regarding the 2013, 2014, and 2015 crop years, a right that ripened into an option when Midland received an offer from Clement Farms and relayed the new price to the Partnerships. In 2012, Midland sought a legal determination that the parties had not extended the prior lease. The circuit court concluded that an enforceable contract existed between the Partnerships and Midland, and the Partnerships exercised their right to lease the property for the 2013 through 2015 crop years. The Partnerships were subsequently restored to possession of the leased property. The Partnerships sued Midland a second time seeking damages for being denied possession of the property from August 2012 to March 2013. Midland sought restitution from the Partnerships for the amount it paid to Clement as reimbursement for Clement’s planting expenses. The circuit court concluded that the Partnerships did not suffer damage, Midland was not entitled to restitution, and Midland had unclean hands. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in concluding that Midland breached its lease with the Partnerships and that the Partnerships were not unjustly enriched. View "Dowling Family P’ship v. Midland Farms, LLC" on Justia Law

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Rabo Agrifinance and Rabo AgServices (collectively, Rabo) commenced a foreclosure action in 2009 on a mortgage granted by Connie and David Finneman (Finnemans) on 17,000 acres of farmland. Rabo commenced its action against Finnemans, Rock Creek Farms (RCF), and all parties who may have had an ownership or leashold interest in the land. Approximately forty-four defendants were listed in the complaint, including Ann and Michael Arnoldy (Arnoldys) and the U.S. as lienholders. The trial court eventually entered a decree of foreclosure in which it recognized RCF's owner's right of redemption. After a sheriff's sale, Ann Arnoldy redeemed from an assignee of the purchaser of the sheriff's certificate. The Arnoldys filed a motion to partially vacate the decree of foreclosure. The trial court granted the motion and vacated the decree of foreclosure recognizing RCF's redemption rights on the basis that RCF and its predecessors, Finnemans, waived those rights. RCF and Finnemans appealed. Arnoldys and the U.S. filed motions to dismiss the appeals for failure to serve the notice of appeal on the U.S. and a number of named parties. The Supreme Corurt dismissed Finnemans' and RCF's appeals for failure to serve their notices of appeal on each party to the action. View "Rabo Agrifinance, Inc. v. Rock Creek Farms" on Justia Law

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In 2007, Davison County adopted a county-wide plan to reassess agricultural structures. The County reassessed agricultural structures in four of its twelve townships that year. Donald and Gene Stehly, who owned agricultural structures in the four reassessed townships, initiated a declaratory judgment action, alleging that the plan to reassess four townships each year created an unconstitutional lack of uniform taxation within the county. The trial court concluded that the Stehlys' claim failed because they did not establish lack of uniformity within a single taxing district as required by the South Dakota Constitution. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) townships are taxing districts under the Constitution, and (2) a reassessment plan that creates a temporary lack of uniform taxation among townships within a county is constitutional. View "Stehly v. Davison County" on Justia Law

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Richard Orr and Sheldon Cook had a partnership agreement to conduct a cow-calf operation. The parties sold the cows and calves in the spring of 2007. Cook received $230,935 from the sale. Orr sued Cook, disputing the reimbursement amount Cook owed him from the sale and for the cost of feeding and caring for the cows during the winter of 2007. The trial court awarded Orr $41,614. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the trial court was not clearly erroneous in determining the value of the calves; (2) the trial court was not clearly erroneous in determining the amount of reimbursement Cook owed Orr for feed and veterinarian costs; and (3) the trial court did err in refusing to award Orr prejudgment interest because it was requested in a manner allowed by statute. View "Orr v. Cook" on Justia Law