> The Zipline

Bringing the Balance Back

Zippy Duvall


photo credit: Alabama Farmers Federation, Used with Permission

As a father, grandfather, farmer and man of faith, balance has become a cornerstone of my life. I have come to appreciate how crucial balance is in every aspect, from managing my time on the farm and with family to spending time on the road and seeing my second family, the Farm Bureau family. The same idea also goes for farming– in order to keep our farms running smoothly, it can become a real balancing act. When one part is out balance, it can create a domino effect and lead to bigger problems down the road. In both life and farming, balance is essential for maintaining stability and success.

Our nation’s government was designed with balance in mind, each of the three branches having equal power to stabilize our democracy. The Founding Fathers knew that this balance was essential to ensure that no single branch would go unchecked. But over the past 40 years that balance has been thrown off by a judicial doctrine known as Chevron deference. This rule permitted federal agencies, rather than our courts, to determine the meaning of ambiguous federal statutes. What does that mean for all of us who are not lawyers? Practically speaking, a federal agency becomes the ultimate authority on its own rules. No check, no balance. Essentially, Chevron deference created a super-branch of government undermining the Judiciary and Legislative branches’ role and multiplying the power of federal agencies.

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Chevron deference marks a pivotal moment in restoring the balance among the branches our Founding Fathers intended.

A prime example of the overreach that came from Chevron deference is all too familiar to farmers and ranchers. It’s none other than the Environmental Protection Agency’s Waters of the United States Rule. Within eight years, we saw three different sets of rules determining which waters fell under federal jurisdiction. This constant change left our farmers, homeowners and local governments in a state of uncertainty, making it impossible to plan for the long term due to ever-changing regulations. Eventually, the Supreme Court unanimously struck down a key part of WOTUS, calling out the EPA for overstepping its legal authority. It was encouraging to see the highest court holding the EPA accountable for its overreach and shedding light on just how powerful federal agencies like the EPA had become.

Farm Bureau has been a leading voice of opposition against Chevron deference and has long argued on behalf of farmers who have been caught in the regulatory back and forth when administrations continually change the rules based on political agendas. The actual legislative process and laws themselves should rule the day.

We are pleased to see the Court finally heard those concerns, and this month, struck down Chevron deference and restored balance. This landmark ruling came after the oral arguments of the Relentless and Loper Bright cases back in January. The Court recognized that the National Marine Fisheries Service had overstepped its bounds when it required fishermen to pay for federal observers to monitor their fishing practices even though Congress never explicitly authorized the agency to charge the fishermen for the observers.

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Chevron deference marks a pivotal moment in restoring the balance among the branches our Founding Fathers intended. By rejecting unchecked agency power, this ruling not only safeguards the rights of farmers and promotes regulatory clarity but also underscores the importance of democratic governance. It will require lawmakers to be less vague in crafting legislation and ensures laws are interpreted on legal principles rather than agency opinions. While this decision represents a significant step forward, we must also keep in mind the work ahead to fully achieve this balance. Congress must fulfill its Constitutional role, upheld here by the Court, by writing legislation that provides clarity to prevent becoming an even more litigious society.

For decades, our farmers have faced challenges posed by agency overreach, and this victory highlights how instrumental our advocacy has been in pushing for a balanced government and clear, understandable laws. It also demonstrates, once again, the immense power of our collective voices when we stand together for what’s right.