On Friday, June 10, 2016, A U.S. District court in California made a decision in Duarte Nursery v. Army Corps of Engineers. The ruling has the potential of affecting farmers and their plowing activities across California. The Federal court ruled that Duarte Nursery violated the Clean Water Act by plowing its property, even though the Act allegedly exempts this type of farming practice. The plaintiffs assert that the implementing regulations provide that plowing activity shall not be subject to the Act, if the activity does not result in conversion of wetlands to dry land.
The plaintiffs argued that no wetlands were reduced or lost by the plowing activity in this case. Lawyers for the plaintiffs claim that the court’s decision is tantamount to a rule that a farm may not plow in wetlands that are federally regulated without a permit issued by the Army Corps.
The court also changed positions on an earlier ruling in the case reversing the court’s holding that although the Army Corps ordered Duarte Nursery to cease and desist all plowing activity in all areas of its property that could be construed as waters of the United States on its property, the company did not amount to a taking or deprivation of its property. Using this reasoning, the court held that Duarte Nursery’s due process rights were not violated when Duarte Nursery was enjoined from farming its property for the past three years. An appeal is likely to be filed timely.
If you are a farmer and have any legal issues that affect your ability to farm your own land, including plowing activity, contact an agricultural law attorney today to determine your rights and how to proceed in your best interests. The agriculture law firm of Arata, Swingle, Van Egmond & Goodwin offers legal services to a diverse mix of regional and national clients facing agriculture law issues throughout Northern California, the Central Valley, and the East Bay.