Apart from too much or too little rain, herd health or the production of a crop, there are several other issues to which farm and ranch owners in Texas need to pay attention.
Agriculture provides freedom, challenges and opportunities like few other business ventures. I get the chance to visit with others around our area who own TX land and share these joys and struggles. In my role, I get numerous inquiries from landowners who want to discuss how to take care of their land, make it more productive, and establish a legacy.
"Who owns the water in the creek that flows through your property? What about the water in your pond?"
Under the current federal administration, the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) debate has been placed on the back burner and given landowners some time to relax, but we shouldn't believe that we've heard the last of it. Even with changes at the EPA, there are some who will pursue this land grab and rural landowners who enjoy their country living must be aware of the implications.
Who owns the water in the creek that flows through your property? What about the water in your pond? You may never have considered it, but states legally own the water in rivers and streams within their borders. As for that old well on your place: Have you registered it with the local groundwater conservation district? If it's not in the system and on the map, when a neighboring landowner wants to sink a large water well, they'll be allowed to do so - because there will be no known conflict.
Eminent domain is still in the forefront. This power allows government or someone acting upon its behalf to take control of private property for public use, and is recognized in both the U.S. and Texas Constitutions. Anyone involved in agriculture must fully understand the implications of this concept.
Negotiating agricultural leases is often overlooked as an important issue - until something goes awry between the two parties involved. Looking at your options regarding such leases, and consequently making the right decisions, will be of the utmost importance.
Lastly, there is estate planning to consider: the process of anticipating and arranging for the distribution of an estate's assets during a person's life. President Donald Trump's proposed tax plan, which addresses this and many other major fiscal issues, has been in the news lately - are you following it? (Or can anyone really, truly follow and understand the tax codes other than CPAs and other experts?)
The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service will be presenting a seminar entitled "Land, Water & Wealth: A Legal Symposium for East Texas Agriculture" later this month on Friday, May 19 at the Angelina County Office. This is an all-day seminar with lunch included.
Two outstanding attorneys, Dr. Tiffany Lashmet and Jim Bradbury, will be addressing these issues. Bradbury represents clients in real estate and business transactions. His areas of expertise include water, wetland mitigation and banking, water quality, land use, environmental and impacts to real property from oil and gas production. Additionally, he serves on the board of the Texas Land Trust Council.
Dr. Lashmet is an Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist specializing in Agricultural Law with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. Tiffany grew up on a family farm and ranch in eastern New Mexico. Prior to joining Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, Tiffany worked for four years at a law firm in Albuquerque practicing civil litigation, and is licensed to practice law in New Mexico and Texas. She writes a very successful Ag Law Blog that can be found at www.agrilife.org/texasaglaw.
The all-day program will take place at the Angelina County Extension office. Valuable information on water law, eminent domain, estate planning, and negotiating agricultural leases will be covered. Cost is $30 per person or $50 per couple. Call 936-634-6414 (ext. 0) by May 12 to reserve a seat or for more information.