The American Farm Bureau Federation has filed an action against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for what the organization calls another example of regulatory overreach. The suit, filed by AFBF and the U.S. Sugar Corporation in the U.S. District Court in Washington, DC, takes the Corps to task for non-compliance with its own rules regarding prior converted croplands.
The suit argues that recent action by the Corps goes against the 1993 rule that excluded prior converted croplands from regulation under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The Corps’ actions would subject croplands to federal control if farmers take their prior converted cropland out of crop production and change its use. There are currently more than 53 million acres of prior converted cropland in the U.S.
“These lands are out of the realm of CWA jurisdiction, meaning the Corps can’t regulate them as waters of the U.S.,” says AFBF President Bob Stallman. “This is important because the value of prior converted croplands is significantly higher than land encumbered by costly federal wetlands regulations.”
Until recently, farmers could rely on the regulations established in 1993 and could use prior converted cropland for both agricultural and non-agricultural uses. Many farmers use the equity in prior converted cropland as collateral for the capital needed for farm and other loans. For many farmers, the development value of the land is an important asset.
“The Corps is now trying to arbitrarily change the rules of the game, which would have significant impacts on producers’ land values and property rights,” Stallman says.