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A $2.8 million dollar fee for plowing your own field?

A California farmer will stand trial for what federal prosecutors claim was a $2.8 million plowing violation. Allegedly, the owner of a 450-acre wheat farm in Modesto plowed the soil on his land without proper permitting, which federal prosecutors say should result in him paying a fine of $2.8 million.

The issue largely relates to the fact that the land is categorized as a seasonal wetland with vernal pools and swales that provide a home for different plants and animals. The land falls into this category largely because it is a drainage zone for two creeks. The federal government considers seasonal wetlands like the one at issue in this case to be "waters of the United States."

Knowing that his land was a seasonal wetland area, the farmer contracted a consulting firm to highlight where on his land he was legally permitted to plow. His attorney says that the farmer planted his wheat after plowing in the identified areas where he believed it was safe to farm. However, he wasn't able to harvest his crop.

The controversy and accusations began after an agent with the Army Corps of Engineers visited the farmer's property, took pictures and accused him of "deep ripping" the soil to destroy the wetlands. The farmer claims, however, that he did not do anything illegal -- and was purposefully avoiding the vernal pools -- and asked the field agent to return so that he could show him. Nevertheless, the agent never returned.

Instead, the California Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board demanded that the farmer stop working on his land, saying that he was in violation of the Clean Water Act. Eventually, the farmer admitted that he did plow some of the vernal pools. However, he does not feel the $2.8 million fine is appropriate.

Issues over land use, the Clean Water Act, and other issues abound throughout California. Environmental laws are important for preserving nature and the environment, but when they are not enforced appropriately, people who are harmed by the enforcement can pursue legal action -- or defend themselves -- in court with the assistance of an experienced business and commercial law attorney.

Source: The Blaze, "California farmer faces $2.8 million fine for plowing his own field," Brandon Morse, May 25, 2017

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