In a Letter to USDA, American Farm Bureau President Calls for NRCS Wetlands Reform

DTN writer Todd Neeley reported last week that, “For years, farmers across the country have battled USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service on wetland determinations. Now, based on a recent federal court decision, a national farm group is calling on USDA to reform the agency’s program.

“Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago sided with a farm family that has been battling NRCS for more than a decade on a wetlands determination made on the family’s farm in Indiana.

“In the 1990s, the late David Boucher cut down nine trees on his family farm. The action garnered attention from NRCS, which argued the family converted several acres of wetlands into croplands by removing the trees.”

Mr. Neeley explained that, “As a result, the NRCS claims rendered the Bouchers’ entire farm ineligible for USDA benefits, although the family never did convert wetlands. On Aug. 8, 2019, the federal court ruled in favor of the Bouchers.

“In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on Wednesday, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said the agency should reform the program.”

The DTN article stated that, “In its ruling, the court called out the NRCS for its handling of the Boucher case.

“‘The USDA repeatedly failed to follow applicable law and agency standards,’ the court said. ‘It disregarded compelling evidence showing that the acreage in question never qualified as wetlands that could have been converted illegally into croplands. And the agency has kept shifting its explanations for treating the acreage as converted wetlands. The USDA’s treatment of the Bouchers’ acreage as converted wetlands easily qualifies as arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion.’

“USDA issued an interim final rule on highly erodible land and wetland conservation in December 2018. Duvall said in his letter that the rule does not fix the problems identified in the Boucher case.”

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