Clements: The Department of Agriculture’s Swampbuster conservation compliance program prevents farmers from participating in crop insurance if they don’t conserve wetlands. Farmers with prior-converted croplands are finding the appeals process challenging when their field is deemed a wetland by USDA. Don Parrish, AFBF Senior Regulatory Relations Director, calls the appeals process broken.
Parrish: The refusal to consider evidence provided by farmers, the failure to adhere to statutes and implement exemptions. We’re seeing cases where USDA employees aren’t following the agency’s own regulations and guidance. It’s almost like USDA will do anything to win some of these cases including unlimited do-overs in changing the explanations and rationales for why they’re implementing these enforcement and determination actions.
Clements: The most recent video shows the example of farmers Nick and Brad Smith.
Parrish: At the heart of this issue is a wet spot in the middle of a field that was drained. They have all of the documentation that that wet spot was drained, it should be prior-converted croplands. It took ten years to resolve this. USDA continued to change and continued to drag these farmers back through the appeals process even after they went to federal district court and the federal circuit court and won this case.
Clements: Parrish says USDA needs to change the process to better serve farmers and ranchers.
Parrish: We’re asking USDA to get in front of this and to deal with it in ways that complies with the statute and that follows the regulations. We’re looking at a situation where prior-converted croplands should mean something, and it doesn’t. USDA needs to spend more time looking at the specifics of some of these cases and they need to get them right.
Clements: Micheal Clements, Washington.