A Farmer Faces $2.8 Million Fine After He Bought 450 Acres of Land and Began Plowing It

In trending news, a farmer in Tehama County, California faces trial in federal court this summer and a $2.8 million fine for failing to get a permit to plow his field and plant wheat. A lawyer for the Duarte Nursery said the case is important because it could set a precedent that requires other farmers to obtain costly, time-consuming permits just to plow their fields. The case is the first time as far as people are aware, that says you need to get a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit to plow to grow crops. This will make it difficult to produce food under these kinds of strict regulations. The penalty trial, in which the U.S. Attorney’s Office is asking for $2.8 million in civil penalties, is set to take place in August.

Apparently, farmers are exempt from the Clean Water Act rules when they plow their fields. The government seems to disagree on this. Even under the farming exemption, a discharge of dredged or fill material that is incidental to the farming activities that impairs the flow of the waters of the United States still requires that of a permit. This is because the activity changes the chemical, the physical and the biological integrity of the waters. The government wants Duarte to repair the wetlands and replant certain plants on the piece of property. A plain reading of the rules says you don’t need a permit to do what he did.

The case started in 2012 when John Duarte, who owns the Duarte Nursery near Modesto, California bought 450 acres located about 10 miles south of Red Bluff. Duarte planned to grow wheat on the acreage, according to Anthony Francois, who is a lawyer for the Pacific Legal Foundation. But because the property has numerous swales and wetlands, Duarte hired a consulting firm to help map out areas on the acreage that were not to be plowed because they were part of the drainage for Coyote and Oat creeks and were considered to be waters of the United States.

Francois also conceded that some of the wetlands on the acreage were plowed but not significantly damaged. He also said the ground was plowed to a depth of about 4 to 7 inches. The Army Corps did not claim Duarte violated the Endangered Species Act by destroying fairy shrimp or their habitat, Francois has said. This particular freshwater species is unique only to California and to southern Oregon and has been classified as a threatened species since 1994 because much of its wetlands that are in California's Central Valley were converted to cropland or became urban.

Duarte's wheat was planted but not harvested because in February 2013 the Army Corps of Engineers and the California Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board issued orders for him to stop work at the site. The agencies claimed at the time that Duarte had violated the Clean Water Act by not obtaining the proper permit to discharge dredged or fill material into seasonal wetlands that were considered waters of the United States. Duarte disturbed portions of the acreage that included wetland areas, so the U.S. attorney alleges. The ripping deposited dirt into the wetlands and the streams on the property in violation of the Clean Water Act, this according to documents filed the United States attorney filed. Francois said that he thought the proposed penalties were unfair. And his client thought the plowing exemption allowed him to till the soil. You will find the is trending news story on the Our Daily Ideas site. On the site, you will find other trending news, new trends, food, DIY ideas, fashion, art, health and more. **


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