Breckenridge Texan

Ag lawyer offers some insight to area landowners

Ag lawyer offers some insight to area landowners
March 21
10:07 2018

An agricultural law specialist met with a group of area residents last week in Albany regarding the rules and regulations that govern the land and its owners.

Tiffany Dowell Lashmet is an Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in Ag Law at Texas A&M. Her seminar was co-sponsored by the Stephens County Extension office, along with the Lower Clear Fork of the Brazos Soil and Water Conservation District and the Leon Bosque Resource Conservation and Development Council.

Tiffany Dowell Lashmet, left, talks with attendees at the ag law seminar last week in Albany. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

Lashmet grew up on a family farm/ranch in eastern New Mexico and received her law degree from Oklahoma State University. Prior to joining Texas A&M, she worked for four years at a law firm in New Mexico practicing civil litigation. She lives in the Texas Panhandle with her husband and son.

She started out the seminar by explaining that she’s a “country person,” in addition to being a lawyer. “I try to come at some of this with some practical knowledge,” she said. “I grew up on my family’s farm and ranch out in northeastern New Mexico. We raised cattle and sheep and had some irrigated cropland. My husband and I have some cattle and a little place up near White Deer. And, so I try to come at this with some practical stuff and not just the legal info that you might get from somebody else.”

During the lunch seminar, she addressed several topics related to property law. While much of the discussion was too detailed to recount in full, below are some of the highlights of what Lashmet covered, as well as links to her free publications that go more in depth into each topic.

  • Water Law – Ground water and surface water are handled differently by Texas law. Ground water rights can be separated from the surface rights, just like mineral rights. Therefore, anyone looking to buy land needs to research the water rights, as well as the mineral rights, to know exactly what they are buying. For more information on water law, see Lashmet’s “Basics of Texas Water Laws” publication.
  • Severance of Estates – If a deed does not expressly reserve an interest – mineral, surface or water – all of the seller’s interests passes to the the buyer. However, if the different rights were separated several generations ago, the information might not be readily available on the current deed, and figuring it out could be a costly venture. Lashmet covers the topic in the blog post “Questions from Tiffany’s Desk: How Do I Find Out If I Own Mineral Rights?
  • Dominant Estate Rule – The mineral estate and/or severed groundwater estate are dominant over the surface estate. The dominant owner can use as much of the surface as reasonably necessary to produce groundwater or minerals without payment to the surface owner. However, Lashmet said, in the spirit of good neighborliness, many companies will offer compensation to the surface owners. Some of that is covered in an article she shared on her blog, “Landowner Attorney Discusses Private Property Rights.”
  • Landowner Liability – Lashmet recommends liability insurance, but she explained that there are three levels of responsibility that the landowner has in regards to liability, based on the type of people who are on the land. Trespassers, licensees and invitees are all treated differently, regarding how much the landowner is liable if a person gets injured on his or her land. There are exceptions to the law, including the Recreational Use Statute and the Texas Agritourism Act. Lashmet covers much of the topic in a four-part series on the blog, starting with “Texas Landowner Liability Part I: Negligent Act v. Premises Liability.”
  • Fence Law – Many counties in Texas – including Shackelford and Stephens – are Open Range, which means there is no duty by the landowner to fence in animals, except on U.S. or State highways. However, regarding stray livestock, “finders keepers” does not apply, Lashmet said. Last year, she co-authored “Five Strands: A Landowner’s Guide to fence Law in Texas,” which is available at no charge on her blog.
  • New Hauling Regulations – A new federal regulation that requires long-haul truckers to install electronic logging devices on their trucks could be interpreted to apply to a rancher with a truck and trailer, Lashmet said. The law does not go into effect until June 18 (an extended deadline), and she is researching the topic to try and clarify the issue. She covers the topic in a blog post, “Do the New Electronic Logging Device Regulations Apply to You?

Although she did not specifically discuss leasing, she told the group in Albany that she will address the topic in some upcoming presentations, listed below. Additionally, the handbook “Ranchers Agricultural Leasing Handbook: Grazing, Hunting, & Livestock Leases”is available on her blog.

Lashmet will be speaking on ag law topics this Friday, March 23, at the Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association Convention in Fort Worth. At 9:30 a.m. Friday, she will participate in the Ask an Ag Lawyer program with Jim Bradbury, James Decker and Kyle Weldon. At 3:30 p.m. Friday, she will discuss Grazing Leases. On April 19, she will be in Archer City to present a half-day Rancher Leasing Workshop.

For more information on related topics, visit Lashmet’s blog, Texas Agriculture Law Blog. The site includes links to all of her ag law publications, upcoming presentations, her Ag Law in the Field podcast and more.


Story by Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan

Cutline, top photo: Tiffany Dowell Lashmet, an Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in Ag Law at Texas A&M, discussed water rights and other landowner issues at an ag law seminar last week in Albany. The presentation was co-sponsored by the Stephens County Extension office. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan) 

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