Trump regulatory rollback, no help for farmers facing $2.8 M fine for ploughing own land

Although President Trump issued in a beautiful part of the budget cuts on the federal red tape earlier this year, a Northern California farmer, is still facing a nearly $3 million fine for ploughing his own land.

In what one observer called “a perfect poster child for the legislation we need,” John Duarte, owner of Duarte Nursery, bought more than 400 hectares of land to grow wheat back in 2012. In February of the following year, after the planting of the wheat, the Army Corps of Engineers and the California Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board issued a cease-and-desist order, preventing Duarte him from harvesting his crop.

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Duarte said the fine could cost him his business and hundreds of employees their jobs.

(American Farm Bureau)

Duarte, they said, had violated the Clean Water Act by not obtaining a permit for the discharge dredged material into seasonal wetlands are considered to be the property of the United States.

Duarte called on the Army Corps and the state.

“This is a government of bullying and retaliation for me filing of a due process claim against them.”

– John Duarte

“You can’t uninstall it from my fun to the farm of my property without any form of due process, and that gives me a chance to explain and compare the facts with you,” he said in a radio show that caters to the farmers.

The U. S. Attorney’s Office counter-sued Duarte Nursery to the enforcement of the Clean Water Act violation. He is now facing a trial in Federal Court in August of this year, and a fine of $2.8 million.

Duarte told Fox News that he believes that his real offense was fighting back after being denied the right to harvest.

“This is a government of bullying and retaliation for me filing of a due process claim against them,” he said.

Legal documents in the case are laden with language about the manipulation of tools and techniques, land topography, and arguments about how deep the soil was plowed.

But Duarte and his supporters say that the crux of the matter is property, and whether the Trump administration will be able to roll back intrusive and vindictive bureaucracy. In February, President Trump signed an executive order “to lower regulatory burdens from the American people by the implementation and enforcement of the regulatory reform.” Duarte hoped that he was saved.

“This is the type of regulatory abuse, we think that President Trump’s Executive Order is intended to resolve,” Ellen Steen, general counsel for the American Farm Bureau Federation, told Fox News. “These are not new regulations. It is the enforcement of the regulations that are on the books for decades, that written are broad and vague, so that the army unit to enforce these important sanctions.”

Last week, House Committee on Agriculture Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., co-wrote a letter to the Attorney-General Jeff Sessions about the Duarte case.

“The prosecution of Mr. Duarte raises questions that the Congressional intent of the agricultural exemptions in the statute is misunderstood,” the letter read. “In particular, it is the Agriculture Committee is of the opinion that even occasional farm activities, such as grazing, to qualify as “normal” farming under the statutory exemption.”

According to Conaway, “Mr. Duarte’s case clearly highlights the need to keep the federal government from America’s backyard, the fields and ditches.”

The Army Corps of Engineers told Fox News they could not comment on matters in litigation and referred queries to the Ministry of Justice. Citing the same reason, the ministry of justice also refused to speak about the case.

The farmland Duarte is fighting with the government about is located in the Republican Rep. Doug LaMalfa’s district. His chief of staff, Mark Spannagel, said Trump’s to not give Congress the power to simply roll back regulations.

“It can begin the process of dissolution, but it is not a magic wand,” he said.

Despite Trump’s order, agencies have pushed forward, Spannagel said.

“This flawed interpretation of the Clean Water Act began in the Sacramento Army Corps, and has spread,” he said. “There are other cases in Northern California, the farmers were settled, because they could not afford to fight.”

Duarte said the huge fine it brings more than just his family in financial distress.

“Now, I run a profitable business,” he said. “I have 500-600 employees who rely on my company. If this is not cleaned up very quickly, we will likely face bankruptcy.”

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