John Duarte, a fourth-generation California farmer and Farm Bureau member, has taken a stand against the federal government over whether farming is a violation of federal law, and he is making his story available in a very public way. To help fund his legal defense effort, Duarte has established a page telling his story on the GoFundMe platform.
Duarte is in a legal battle with federal regulators over whether he violated federal law by plowing his land. Duarte is facing fines of $8 million, and potentially the loss of his home, just for plowing his land to plant wheat. The cost of his legal defense already has run into the millions. While Duarte is making a stand, he also is asking the broad agricultural community to stand with him because of the very important legal issues at stake for all farmers and ranchers.
"John Duarte isn't that much different from most farmers," said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. "He works his land, plants his crop and works with nature to take care of it to the best of his ability. What makes his story different is the fact he ran head-on into regulators wanting to make him an example by calling into question his use of normal farming practices in an area they have identified as a water of the U.S. It is important that we challenge these issues and John is boldly standing up to do that."
Duarte has a mortgage on 450 acres of California farmland that a court has ordered him not to farm, along with still-rising legal bills, currently estimated at $1.5 million.
"If you care about farming, if you care about justice and you agree enough is enough, I hope you will stand with me," Duarte explained on his GoFundMe page. "Federal regulators want to control ordinary farming. They're starting with me and a few others. We need to stop them before they put more farm families in economic peril - before they make farming a federal offense."
In addition to Duarte's GoFundMe page, additional information about his story is available through a video produced by AFBF in 2015 - "California Farmers Stand up to Federal Enforcers on Water Regulations."