Sunday, April 06, 2008

Applied Ag Law

While many discussions on this blog involve policy issues and “big picture” agricultural law, it is good to remember that agricultural laws impact farmers as well as others on a personal level. And, the interaction of different laws may be complex. A reader’s recent question provided an example.

A farmer had farmed for 50 years along a river, with drainage pipe for his fields running to the river. Over the years the pipe had become clogged and the tide gate was eroded. He said that when the snows melted and the river rose, his fields flooded. He asked if he could make repairs to the system without permission from the local permitting authority.

My response to him was perhaps not that satisfying, but it was the best I could do under the circumstances. I replied as follows:
I cannot give you a yes or no answer to your question, nor can I advise you on this legal matter. I am not a licensed attorney in your state. However, the situation you described may well involve your local drainage laws, state water law and federal law under both the Clean Water Act and the Swampbuster provisions of the federal farm programs. Given the potential penalties that maybe involved, it is always safest to obtain permission from local authorities as well as your Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Natural Resources Conservation (NRCS) offices. Otherwise, you should contact an attorney in your state that is familiar with these types of issues. The American Agricultural Law Association sometimes serves as a good referral for attorneys interested in agricultural law issues. There is a public member search available by state. Your state bar association may also have an agricultural law or water law section that would be a good resource to you in finding an attorney. Good luck to you, and thanks for checking out the aglaw blog.
Just another reminder that there is a need for good agricultural law attorneys!


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