I really thought we were done with this nonsense after the last election, but perhaps not.
Out in California, a farmer is facing millions of dollars in fines for plowing a field that he purchased and planting wheat. If that sentence sounds like something out of a George Orwell novel to you, you’re not alone. His supposed crime was to have “disturbed” the Waters of the United States, a term which gained massive popularity under the Obama administration’s EPA rules. In this case, the land that John Duarte purchased and was plowing did not include a river, or even a stream, but rather “seasonal wetlands” which develop swampy areas during the rainy season but then dry up for the rest of the year. (Free Beacon)
A California farmer is facing a $2.8 million fine for failing to get a permit to plow his own field.
John Duarte bought 450 acres of land near Modesto in 2012 and is now being sued by the federal government for plowing near areas the government considers to be “waters of the United States.”
The case will head to trial in August. The government claims that Duarte violated the Clean Water Act because he did not obtain a permit to work near the wetlands.
USA Today has all the details here but it’s reminiscent of other cases brought against landowners in the past. One of the major sticking points is that farmers are supposed to be exempt from these rules. But the government is claiming that the “ripper” blades he used while plowing were “discharging material” into “wetlands.” And for that he’s being fined millions of dollars.
Duarte never even got to harvest the wheat that he planted because the government was all over him. Keep in mind that we’re not talking about dumping chemicals into a stream or building some sort of permanent structure. The guy was plowing. He was literally moving dirt a foot or so to the side so he could plant his crops.
Doesn’t the Justice Department have some say in these matters? Jeff Sessions seems to be mostly on board with Donald Trump’s relaxed regulatory agenda. Obviously the press will have a fit if it happens, but it seems like he could put a word in somebody’s ear and get this case dropped. It’s been exactly one month since the president signed his executive order directing the Agriculture Department to reduce burdensome regulations and make life easier for farmers. This seems like an excellent opportunity to put that approach into action.