Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Addition to the Law Down On The Farm Blogroll

I've added the George Morris Centre up in beautiful downtown metropolitan Guelph, Ontario to the blogroll. They've got some great publications and insight into agricultural matters of concern to farmers worldwide and I commend their work to you. It is well worth the time to stop by and have a look around.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

When is a Ditch a Swale?

Clark v. Yellow Medicine County Bd. of Commissioners, 2006 Minn. Unpub. LEXIS 948 (August 22, 2006)
Knutson petitioned for a conditional use permit for construction of a hog feedlot and Larson, a citizen, objected, saying that the proposed project violated setback requirements in that there was a drainage ditch too close to the boundary of the proposed feedlot. The county found that the natural feature was a field break, swale or natural ravine not subject to the setback requirement and granted the permits.

Larson sued out a taxpayer mandamus action to rescind the permits, but the Board was granted summary judgment. Another mandamus action followed, this time filed by one Clark, alleging that the natural feature had been converted into a drainage ditch as set forth in a letter from Larson. The court again granted summary judgment.

On appeal, the court determined that the doctrines of collateral estoppel and res judicata applied and prohibited relitigation of issues that had already been decided in the previous action.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Cuba Signs Trade Deal With Navajo Nation

It has recently been reported that NAPI, the Navajo Agricultural Products Industry, has signed a letter of intent with the government of Cuba for the sale of agricultural products including corn, wheat, beans and other commodities. The value of the deal is said to be $16 million.

The deal is significant for another reason, and that is that it validates the Navajo Nation as a serious international player in the agricultural commodity export trade. In the opinion of Nation President Joe Shirley, Jr., it also validates the Nation as a sovereign entity. President Shirley also made the commonsense observation that people in Cuba have to eat, too, and that includes grandmas and grandpas.

Back in April, when a deal was signed between Alabama farmers and the government of Cuba for agricultural products, we here at Law Down On the Farm opined that we thought it was high time that the barriers to trade between Cuba and the U.S. come down.

If trade is indeed a liberalizing influence that is good for all (and we do think so as a matter of policy, considering our relationships with Viet Nam and China) then we ought to be thinking hard about whether we ought to be continuing the embargo against Cuba after all this time. Whatever their politics, people have to eat, and American farmers know how to meet that need.

This scribe clearly remembers huge grain deals between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. during the height of the Cold War. Even a state of war did not prevent the liberalizing message from farmers to hungry folks from getting through, loud and clear.

It's time to separate the issues of what kind of government ought to replace the Castro regime (which has not, it is true, been kind to dissidents and freethinkers and respectful of property rights) and what sort of remedies ought to be available to the Cubans who lost their properties in the revolution, from the larger issue of maintaining an embargo that only serves to justify and validate the politics of the Cuban emigre community in this country.

This issue is far too large for the emigres to wield such power, when it works such a detriment on American farmers.

One might recall the words of Oliver Cromwell to the Rump Parliament in 1653. They seem peculiarly applicable to the embargo against Cuba: You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of G-d, go!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Importance of Punctuation.

I've just added the Toronto Globe and Mail to my menu of cool news, and I've been waiting anxiously to get some news from the Great White North.

Well. Let me tell you, it wasn't long in coming, and this one's a stunner.

It seems that Rogers Communications inked a deal with Aliant to hang its cable on Aliant's poles for an annual fee of $9.60 per pole. Rogers thought it had a five year deal with a renewal option that could have taken them to 2012, but they got the word that the contract was going to be cancelled and the prices were going up.

It all came down to a single comma in a single sentence.

The agreement said it "shall continue in force for a period of five years from the date it is made, and thereafter for successive five year terms, unless and until terminated by one year prior notice in writing by either party."

What everyone missed was that the comma between "terms" and "unless" allowed Aliant to dump the contract any time after one year. At least that's what the regulators at the Canadian Radio-television and Telecumminactions Commission said when they were done parsing the terms of the contract.

Rogers estimates that this will cost them about C$2.13 million more than they expected to pay.