Legal Advocacy

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The American Farm Bureau Federation is the leading national advocate for U.S. farmers and ranchers in the courts. As the Voice of Agriculture®, AFBF initiates or joins litigation to shape many of the laws that affect farmers’ and ranchers’ ability to conduct their operations. Farm Bureau member dues support AFBF’s Legal Advocacy efforts to maintain a functional U.S. legal and regulatory climate so farmers and ranchers can be productive stewards of our natural resources.

Promoting. Preserving. Defending.

  • AFBF promotes strong protection of property and privacy rights.
  • AFBF preserves access to biotechnology and crop protection products.
  • AFBF defends against regulatory overreach. 

Recent Legal Advocacy Highlights

August through October 2020

AFBF and an industry coalition moved to intervene in federal courts in Virginia, New York, and California to defend new updates to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Virginia federal court denied the plaintiffs’ request to stop the new NEPA rule from going into effect.

Late September 2020

AFBF and the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) filed their Opening Brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit seeking to overturn the dismissal of their challenge to California Proposition 12. AFBF and NPPC’s case received support from twenty states, five industry groups, and the United States—all of whom filed amicus briefs arguing that the case should proceed.

September 2, 2020

AFBF filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in support of farmers’ right to exclude union organizers from their property and opposing the government’s ability to appropriate an easement without just compensation.

September 1, 2020

AFBF and a coalition of agricultural groups moved to intervene in support of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) reporting exemption for farms.

July 22, 2020

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the registration for Enlist Duo.

June 19, 2020

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied an emergency motion to vacate EPA’s existing stocks order for dicamba. AFBF and a coalition of national grower trade associations had previously asked the Ninth Circuit to uphold EPA’s existing stocks order.

June 19, 2020

A California judge denied a request to stop the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR) from going into effect. The NWPR re-defines “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act

May 26, 2020

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found that the City of Oakland unlawfully breached an agreement for the construction of a coal export terminal. AFBF and an industry coalition filed an amicus brief in the case warning that a ruling in the City’s favor would encourage local obstruction of foreign trade.

May through July 2020

AFBF and a broad coalition of business and industry organizations moved to intervene in federal courts in Washington, D.C., California, South Carolina, and Colorado to defend the NWPR.

April 23, 2020

The Supreme Court rules that the Clean Water Act requires a permit where there is a direct discharge from a point source into navigable waters or when there is the functional equivalent of a direct discharge. The decision overturned an even broader Ninth Circuit holding that would have required a permit for any pollutants that are “fairly traceable” back to a point source, even if the pollutants traveled long and far (through groundwater) before reaching navigable waters. AFBF had formed a coalition of agricultural groups to file an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to reverse the Ninth Circuit’s holding.

April 22, 2020

AFBF and an industry coalition filed amicus briefs in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third and Tenth Circuits to bolster the wins we helped to achieve in Kisor v. Wilkie—that courts should not defer to agency guidance where the underlying rules are unambiguous.

April 20, 2020

AFBF and a broad coalition of grower groups, agriculture retailers, landscape professionals, and Monsanto intervened in a case to defend EPA’s decision to re-register the herbicide glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup.

April 17, 2020

AFBF and a coalition of industry allies filed their opening brief challenging EPA’s Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule for failing to distinguish between biogenic emissions (i.e., natural carbon emissions from processing ag feedstocks) and fossil fuel greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

April 15, 2020

AFBF and twelve western state Farm Bureaus filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to reverse a decision that allows federal agencies to conduct their own allocations of water rights, upsetting the established practice giving states that power.

May 6, 2020

AFBF and a broad grower coalition filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in support of EPA’s decision to retain tolerances and registrations for chlorpyrifos.

March and June 2020

AFBF filed briefs in support of President Trump’s proclamations reducing the size of two national monuments in Utah—the Bears Ears National Monument and the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

December 2019, January 2020

AFBF moves to intervene in suits in South Carolina and New York to defend the EPA and Corps’ of Engineers’ repeal of the 2015 WOTUS Rule

December 13, 2019

AFBF intervenes in multiple suits to defend several updates and revisions to the Endangered Species Act which promote efficient and effective conservation, increase regulatory transparence, and reduce unnecessary regulatory costs.

December 5, 2019

AFBF sues California for a new law that dictates farming practices in farms outside of California.

Credit: MOFB   

Fighting Regulatory Overreach

AFBF led the charge against an expansive rule redefining “navigable waters” or “Waters of the United States” to cover millions of acres of farmed wetlands, ditches and other land features that only carry water when it rains.

When EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued the rule, AFBF took the battle to the courts. AFBF’s legal advocacy resulted in the rule being found unlawful and stopped in 28 states, leading to EPA and the Corps repealing and replacing the rule with a much more workable solution.

With a new and clearer rule defining “Waters of the United States” in place, AFBF is now defending sensible regulation that balances environmental protection and agriculture.

Defending Against Activist Litigation

AFBF defends against citizens’ suits seeking to impose regulatory hurdles and restrict agricultural production.

Activist groups often use the courts to further complicate the web of federal regulations with the goal of imposing unreasonable restrictions on agricultural inputs and permit requirements. AFBF intervenes in litigation to defend reasonable and science-based rules that allow productive use of the land while also preserving the environment.

Credit: Larry Lamsa / CC BY 2.0   

Protecting Species and Agriculture

AFBF works to bring balance to the Endangered Species Act, protecting species while also preserving farmers’ and ranchers’ ability to work the land.

Overbroad interpretations of Endangered Species Act requirements can needlessly curtail agriculture and other economic activity. AFBF frequently intervenes in cases to defend reasonable rules that allow farming and ranching to continue while promoting species recovery.

Credit: iStockPhoto   

Property and Privacy Rights

AFBF has won major victories to safeguard the property and privacy rights of farming and ranching families.

In 2019, AFBF helped overturn a 34-year precedent in the Supreme Court which now makes it easier for farmers and ranchers to receive just compensation when local and state governments take their land.

That same year, AFBF helped overturn a 43-year precedent in the Supreme Court to better protect farmers’ and ranchers’ confidential business information from activist groups.

AFBF was also able to stop EPA from compiling and publicly releasing to activist groups the names, home addresses, GPS coordinates, personal phone numbers and email addresses of tens of thousands of farmers and ranchers across the nation. We believe government should safeguard citizens’ personal and financial information, not serve as a clearing house to distribute it.

Credit: Missouri Farm Bureau   

Productive Use of Federal Lands

AFBF fights to maintain a robust livestock grazing industry on federal and privately owned lands.

For example, AFBF intervened in multiple lawsuits to defend the government’s ability to reduce the size of overly expansive national monuments which limit ranchers’ access for livestock grazing.

AFBF also intervened in a lawsuit to block the federal government’s push to eliminate the mandate of “multiple use” on federal lands in favor of a singleminded focus on species protection. AFBF will fight to maintain the ability of ranchers to utilize federal lands and protect their water rights.

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