AFBF President: Property Rights are “Under Attack”

88e9c-zippydFrom American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall:

The idea of having the right to manage your own property is as ingrained in the idea of America as the ideas of independence, liberty and freedom. In “The Federalist Papers,” James Madison, one of the signers of our Constitution, wrote, “Government is instituted no less for protection of the property than of the persons of individuals.” It was the desire to own property and the vastness of available land in the “New World” that attracted so many to leave crowded Europe in the late 1700s, stake their claim in wide-open America and use the land for productive purposes, including raising crops and livestock. Some of today’s farmers and ranchers are descendants of those who came to America in those early days with the dream of owning land.

The founders of our nation understood the importance of land ownership and property rights. Today, that concept seems to be under attack by the very government that was founded on the basis of independence, liberty and freedom. John Duarte, a fourth-generation California farmer, is defending himself again an Environmental Protection Agency lawsuit claiming that he broke the law by plowing his land. He faces millions of dollars in federal penalties, plus the multi-million-dollar cost of the legal fight. A couple of years ago, a West Virginia farmer was told by EPA that dust and feathers blown to the ground from her chicken houses constituted a violation of the Clean Water Act. Farm Bureau helped her defend her farm in court and the court sided with her. However, that hasn’t stopped the EPA from going after more farmers for the same type of activity.

The Waters of the U.S. rule, also a product of EPA, will require many more landowners to ask Uncle Sam’s permission—apply for a federal permit—to use their land for farming and homebuilding. The rule is now held up in court, but it remains a looming threat to the productive use of the land. I have seen for myself how western farmers and ranchers are affected by overpopulation of protected species such as wild horses, wolves and elk, which come onto their land, prey on farm animals, use up forage that farmers have grown for their own livestock, or expose farm animals to disease threats—and the landowner often isn’t allowed to take action to protect his land and animals.

It’s time for our government leaders to take a look at regulatory reform. They should undertake the effort with a view to the principles on which our nation was founded, including the protection of property and the freedom to use it for productive purposes.

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