California Farmer Fined $2.8 Million for Plowing His Own Field

Is the United States really the land of the free and the home of the brave as claimed by its citizens while they lovingly sing their national anthem?

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California

Is the United States really the land of the free and the home of the brave as claimed by its citizens while they lovingly sing their national anthem? Well, it may be the home of the brave if they regard killing innocent children in the Middle East as bravery, but it’s certainly not the land of the free; where they think they are free to do whatever they wish, especially with things they think belong to them.

If you recall, in 2015, Gary Harrington, or the Oregon ‘Rain Man’ was sent to 30 days in Jackson County Jail and slapped with a $1,500 fine for building three ponds and collecting rainwater on his 170-acre property. He was ordered to breach his dams and drain his ponds that held more than 13 million gallons of water, enough to fill 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Then in 2016, an Oregon couple was forced to destroy their 40-year-old 2-acre pond because they didn’t have any water rights as the rain belongs to the overbearing government and water is not a human right. Essentially, because Americans are not entitled to do what they please on their private property.

A recent example firmly establishes this brutal truth.

californiaThe U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the California Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board are seeking $2.8 million in fines from John Duarte, a California farmer, for not obtaining expensive, time-consuming permits to plow soil on his own land and deposit drainage into seasonal wetlands that are considered waters of the United States.

Anthony Francois, an attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation, told USA Today:

“The case is the first time that we’re aware of that says you need to get a (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) permit to plow to grow crops. We’re not going to produce much food under those kinds of regulations.”

According to the court documents, John Duarte — who owns Duarte Nursery in Modesto, California — bought 450 acres of land in Tehama County in 2012 to harvest wheat. The property contained numerous swales, vernal pools — temporary pools of water that provide habitat for endangered plants and animals — and wetlands.

Since he could not plow these areas on his land as they were part of the drainage for Coyote and Oat creeks and were considered waters of the United States, Duarte hired a consulting firm to map out areas where he could legally plow.

He plowed around the restricted areas and planted a wheat crop. But he couldn’t harvest it, because in February 2013, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the California Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board issued cease and desist orders because Duarte had violated the Clean Water Act.

californiaDuarte sued the Army Corps and the Board, accusing them of violating his constitutional right of due process under the law by issuing the orders without a hearing; they counter-sued Duarte for violating the Clean Water Act.

According to court documents filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento, Duarte used a tractor equipped with a “ripper” that has seven 36-inch shanks and dug an average of 10 inches into the soil, damaging wetland areas.

Francois conceded that some of the wetlands were plowed but not significantly damaged – as the field was plowed to a depth of 4 to 7 inches. He insists that the Clean Water Act explicitly allows farmers to plow their fields and that the Army Corps did not claim Duarte violated the Endangered Species Act by destroying fairy shrimp or their habitat.

Farmers plowing their fields are specifically exempt from the Clean Water Act rules forbidding discharging material into U.S. waters.  A plain reading of the rules says you don’t need a permit to do what he did. How do you impose a multimillion dollar penalty on someone for thinking the law says what it says?”

But the government is adamant. The U.S. attorney argued in court filings:

“Even under the farming exemption, a discharge of dredged or fill material incidental to the farming activities that impairs the flow of the waters of the United States still requires a permit because it changes the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the waters.”


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