Meet Charles Hood, a Virginia farmer who has been fighting for years to farm his own land because of an unfair treatment by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Some people will say I was stupid for doing what I did, but I was standing up for what I thought was right, without the government trying to take people's land from them.
2006 I bought this land, I got my soil scientist, Jerry Quesenberry, to come out here with me because the land had, I thought, potential.
Mr. Hood contacted me, asked for my opinion, at that time I was just retired from the NRCS and my expertise is in soils and wetlands. So therefore, I said yes, you have a project here, told him what to do and what not to do and he proceeded with it.
Then I went to NRCS and got the guidance on cleaning the land up and what I was supposed to do, filling the proper procedures and then I started farming some of it and they said, well you're eligible on part of that land for the EQIP program, I did that, and I tried to do everything under the graces of the government.
And then in 2016, they came in and did a National Wetlands Inventory.
I thought everything was going real well and all of a sudden the plug got pulled and they were here like, all over me with a violation…and tied up everything with all of the farms that I was associated with.
They stopped me from planting…I could not get any federal benefits from it. It's been unreal.
Whenever Charles had bought this land, he approached me first before he bought the property, he went to the agency, they told him what he could do and couldn't do, he followed their procedures and they wanted to come back and question most of the things that he did do. They wanted to dispute how he cleaned the property up, and at that point, we got into the process of going through the appeal division and trying to resolve the issue.
NRCS said I was in violation, we went through the appeal process, we went through it three times and we won each time and the NRCS would not accept the judge’s decision at any of those times and we won.
It was just out of hand, NRCS did not want to give up, they did not want to admit they had made a mistake on the original determination, and they kept fighting it saying, no, we’re going to show that this is a converted wetland.
Every time we would go through different hearings with them, they would say have you filed bankruptcy yet Mr. Hood, like it was, like they were trying to break me or something. But I've survived all of that and all that's past now.
I've probably aged more in the last four or five years than I have in a long time because of the stress and worry with this stuff.
I never dreamed this would have happened to me.
It's been a bureaucratic mess.
We have not on had a crop on this land since 2016 until this, 2019 we were able to put a crop back on it without fear of the government coming in here and messing with me.
I stuck with this because I thought it was the right thing to do and hopefully, I would be helping future generations and other farmers across the United States with this issue of dealing with the NRCS and I tried, and we won.