LaMalfa Leads Effort to Protect Farmers from Unlawful Regulatory Overreach

Mar 16, 2016
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) led a letter urging the House Committee on Appropriations to defund lawless federal regulation of agricultural work, such as plowing fields, planting seeds, and harvesting crops. While the Clean Water Act explicitly exempts these activities, federal agencies, particularly the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers, have imposed new requirements under creative interpretations of the law to penalize farmers.  

“The EPA has made it perfectly clear that it has no interest in carrying out laws as Congress has written them, especially when they limit the EPA’s jurisdiction. Despite Congress clearly and repeatedly exempting farming activities, the EPA and Army Corps have used a creative interpretation to justify regulating farmers for day-to-day work such as plowing fields or even replanting fields left fallow due to drought,” continued LaMalfa. “In pushing an agenda intended solely to expand its power, the EPA shows a complete disregard for our laws, private property rights, and the livelihoods of Americans using these lands.  The law was never intended to penalize farmers just for harvesting crops or cleaning irrigation systems, and I will continue to use every tool at my disposal to put an end to this blatant, bureaucratic power grab.”

LaMalfa was joined by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway and Ranking Member Colin Peterson, as well as Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster. Rep. Bob Gibbs, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Water Resources & Environment, and Rep. Glenn Thompson, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Conservation & Forestry, also signed on. A copy of the letter may be found here.

The Clean Water Act language, found here, specifically exempts the following activities from regulation under the Act:

- Normal farming, silviculture, and ranching activities such as plowing, seeding, cultivating, minor drainage, harvesting for the production of food, fiber, and forest products;

- Construction or maintenance of farm or stock ponds or irrigation ditches, or the maintenance of drainage ditches.

According to the Army Corps of Engineers rules, farm operations must be “established” and “ongoing”, requirements found nowhere in the Clean Water Act. The Army Corps rules, found here, add new requirements not required by law:

-  MUST be a part of an established (on-going) farming, silviculture, or ranching operation. An operation is no longer established when the area on which it was conducted has been converted to another use or has lain idle so long that modifications to the hydrologic regime are necessary to resume operations.

- For example, if a property has been used for cattle grazing, the exemption does not apply if future activities would involve planting crops for food; similarly, if the current use of a property is for growing corn, the exemption does not apply if future activities would involve conversion to an orchard or vineyards.

Video of LaMalfa’ s recent comments on the EPA’s and Army Corps of Engineers’ activities during a House Agriculture hearing with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy may be viewed here.


Congressman Doug LaMalfa is a lifelong farmer representing California’s First Congressional District, including Butte, Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou and Tehama Counties.