The Plowing of John DuarteThu, 14 Jan 2016 18:13:23 CST
A fourth generation California farmer shared his personal experience of how the federal government is coming down on family farms. In speaking at the American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention, John Duarte of Duarte Nursery talked about his family farm that sells trees and vines throughout California. Their family sells new stock to farmers that are planting almonds, grapes, walnuts, pistachios and citrus. The family also grows some wheat. In February 2013, they were contacted by the Army Corps of Engineers that Duarte broke the law simply by plowing his land in rural Tehama County. The agency came back and issued a cease and desist letter against him and Duarte Nursery alleging that the act of plowing his field was an illegal “discharge of dredged or fill material.” That’s when Duarte’s attorney contacted the Pacific Legal Foundation and they found it was a clear violation of due process.
“A government agency cannot simply tell us to quit farming our land without providing a hearing and some kind of administrative process to come to their conclusions, much less withhold any information, if collected on our land, that would have led them to their decision to tell us to quite operating on our farm,” Duarte said.
Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays caught up with Duarte at the AFBF annual meeting this week. Click or tap on the LISTENBAR below to hear more about the challenges this farmer has faced with the government.
This case started before the implementation of the Waters of the U.S. rule. Duarte’s case shows the regulatory climate for farmers will likely become much worse and encompass the entire nation in the future. He said right now there’s a commingling of several different pieces of law that are going to strangle farmers and threaten rural communities.
“If you look at what’s happening under the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act and the habitat designations and the intermingling of these to limit farmer’s use of their land, we are heading towards a time where farmers across the country are going to have a hard time being able to cultivate their land to best practices without a permit from regulatory agencies of the federal government,” Duarte said. “Federal government is trying to use private farm property to accomplish their ends on habitat conservation and endangered species restoration.”
If Congress doesn’t begin revising many of these regulations to stop this overreach, Duarte said this will threaten rural economies and national food security.
On October 23, 2015, Duarte Nursery filed a motion for summary judgment against the Army Corps of Engineers, presenting undisputed facts that show that the farming company is entitled to judgment as a matter of law because the government deprived it of property without a hearing. Hearing on dispositive motions was held on November 20, 2015. The Duarte family is now awaiting decision.
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