Editorial: Tuscan Water District and Election 2020

By Colleen Cecil
January /February Editorial
Butte County Farm Bureau News 

Tuscan Water District
Maybe you have heard about it. Maybe you haven’t. If you are a groundwater user – agricultural and/or domestic – in the Vina or Butte Sub Basins of Butte County then you should probably make yourself aware. This is a necessary and important step in ensuring groundwater reliability for future generations in Butte County to be able to live and farm.

The Tuscan Water District is being formed to create an organization that can and will represent all groundwater dependent landowners, to be able to preserve and protect agricultural and domestic water supplies in the rural areas of the Vina and Butte sub basins and meet the sustainability goals of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

Through the Butte Local Agency Formation Commission, a process to form the district will be by a landowner-voter petition. The proposed Tuscan Water District will include more than 94,000 acres. This will encompass from the Tehama County line south to the Western Canal Service area; the eastern boundary is Highway 99 and the City of Chico corporate boundary and the western boundary generally following the Sacramento River, Big Chico Creek, M and T Ranch, Llano Seco Ranch Water District and Reclamation District 2106. In total the district will be approximately 147 square miles.

If you are one of the 52,000 acres within the proposed district boundary that have already lent support to this effort, I am not telling you anything you don’t already know. Thank you to those who have already voiced and demonstrated support. If you are part of the 42,000 acres that have not given your support, I encourage you to ask the questions and learn about the Tuscan Water District formation process.


The actual application for the district formation has not been filed yet. It is slated to happen in early 2020. For more than two years now, upwards of 50 landowners have been meeting quarterly to get our community to where we are today. Preparations are underway to file the necessary paperwork.

Many of you have likely had personal phone calls or in-person meetings with Rich McGowan, Ed McLaughlin, Darren Rice or Todd Turley. These gentlemen have been pounding pavement, dirt roads and orchard rows talking to and educating you and your neighbors about the importance of forming this district. If you have not heard from them yet, then call me and I will get them in touch with you. With four of them and many of you, they have not talked to everyone but they are committed to talking to anyone that will benefit. And yes, this is a beneficial project.

It’s an Election Year
The year 2020 is now here and that brings with it an election. New to California this year will be an earlier Primary Election. We will now vote on March 3. It’s also important to note that this election will be 100% mail-in ballot too. You can still drop your ballot off but there will not be any polling places in March to go and vote this year. Make sure your mailing address is correct with the Butte County Clerk Recorder.

In this issue of the Butte County Farm Bureau News you will find our March Primary Voter Guide. You will notice three names for Butte County Supervisor. It is imperative that these three candidates win their seats. And preferably in March too. It is these three seats that have agriculture’s best interest at the County Board of Supervisors. If you don’t believe me, I challenge you to attend an upcoming Board of Supervisors meeting or watch one from the past twelve months. They are all available online.

BCFB Voter Guide March 2020

December in DC
Despite the tremendous amount of televised drama taking place in Washington DC the last year, there have been some major accomplishments. The House of Representatives passage of USMCA HR 5430 and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act HR 5038 in December, and both with tremendous bi-partisan support, have us eager to see both these bills voted on by the Senate and ultimately to the Presidents desk. Both bills will benefit California agriculture. We are appreciative of Congressman LaMalfa and his leadership and support in seeing both these bills get passed in the House.

We look forward to seeing you at the BCFB Annual Dinner on January 3st at Gold Country Casino where we will thank outgoing President Darren Rice, welcome our new president elect Lee Heringer and then dance the evening away to local favorite Decades.

We are looking forward to working for you in 2020 and thank you for your membership in the Butte County Farm Bureau. Happy New Year!

BCFB Opposes Butte Regional Conservation Plan

By Colleen Cecil
Executive Director, Butte County Farm Bureau

For more than 12 years I have served as the Butte County Farm Bureau, and subsequently the agriculture representative, for the Butte Regional Conservation Plan (BRCP) Stakeholder group.

The BRCP is a 50 year plan that is both a federal Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) and a state Natural Community Conservation Plan (NCCP). It provides a streamlined permitting process to accomplish transportation projects, urban and residential development and other covered activities.

The plan area for the BRCP includes the western two-thirds of Butte County’s total area and encompasses all of Butte County’s Agriculture zoned land.

The BRCP has always been touted as a plan to “streamline” the environmental permitting process for developers. As a BRCP stakeholder, I often asked “what does this plan do for agriculture?” I was told that it would benefit agriculture by allowing our area irrigation districts an easier permitting process for their annual projects.

Plan area

While that is in fact a benefit, what never could be resolved were the obvious impacts to agriculture that I often questioned. If you’re at all familiar with the environmental permitting process for development and how a conservation easement works, than you know that in-perpetuity easements are placed on other non-developable ground, and in this example agriculture zoned ground, to mitigate for a threatened or endangered species that may be on a parcel destined for development.

As a result of the size and scope of the plan, the potentially negative impacts to agriculture and very few direct benefits to agriculture, the Butte County Farm Bureau has been and remains opposed to the BRCP being approved in Butte County.

The BRCP is a 1,106 page document including all appendices, maps, charts and templates with a $434 million dollar price tag. The magnitude of technical information and detail included in this large document means there is no chance of me explaining all of the BCFB’s concerns in this editorial.

I wanted you to all know the BCFB is opposed to the BRCP being approved in Butte County and will remain opposed. Additionally we have suggested that this plan fails for lack of total community support (the developers, for whom it is supposed to benefit, have said they can do without it) and for its disregard of the importance for agriculture to Butte County’s open space, environment and economy.

I would encourage you to go and take a look the BRCP under the documents tab at www.buttehcp.com.

Please don’t read this as BCFB being opposed to conservation and easements. NOTHING could be farther from the truth. Butte County’s farmers and ranchers have always been and will continue to be staunch environmental stewards of our land and its critters. Development, mitigation, new easements and environmental protection will still continue and will happen just as it has been happening in Butte County.

If you own agriculture zoned ground in the plan area, you should understand this plan. If you farm and own rice ground, you should be concerned about this plan. If you own land ideal for grazing, you should understand this plan. If you already farm next to federal and state owned protected land, you too should understand this plan. And if you ever plan to develop anything in Butte County, you should read this plan.

Butte County is rich with environmentally protected, public and privately owned, open space habitat ground and we accomplished all of it without the BRCP.

I encourage your phone calls and all of your questions. After you call me, call your Chico, Oroville, Biggs and Gridley City Council members and the Board of Supervisors. They will have the final approval.

After 12 years of stakeholder meetings and reading drafts, I still learn something new about the HCP and NCCP process every time I open the document. Let’s learn and understand together. Maybe a collaborative plan that celebrates our agriculture and protects habitat can be created for future generations rather than the selfish plan we’re being asked to support.

(Reprinted from the September/October Butte County Farm Bureau News.)

New membership categories available

Executive Director Column
By Colleen Cecil
Butte County Farm Bureau News
January/February 2019

It’s a New Year and we are excited to be bringing you a new Butte County Farm Bureau level of membership that will help to make navigating the regulatory framework easier.

As of January 1st, the Butte County Farm Bureau will offer a new level of membership that gives you all the benefits of being a Farm Bureau member and an AgSafe member for one annual price.


You’re probably asking, “who is AgSafe and why should I consider this level of membership?”

If you have taken one of the many education courses we offer here at BCFB over the last three years, you have already interacted with AgSafe. Since 1991 AgSafe has worked alongside food and farming enterprises to help in creating a safe, sustainable workforce and food supply, by providing practical education and resources.

The non-profit organization, AgSafe is headquartered in Modesto and has a “boots on the ground” approach to teaching both the why and how of worker safety, human resources, pesticide safety and food safety. They are your partner in protecting workers in the field, as well as packing, processing and food manufacturing facilities.

The new level of BCFB membership is the Agriculture Safe Membership and it will be $325 a year. Agriculture Safe Members receive all the benefits of a BCFB Agriculture Member plus the benefits of being an AgSafe Micro Member. BCFB Agriculture Safe Members will have access to a 1-800 BCFB Hotline to get answers to any questions or concerns regarding worker safety, HR, pesticide compliance and food safety plus you’ll receive a 15% discount on any AgSafe Workplace Compliance Package.

Do you have an Injury Illness Prevention Plan? How about a Food Safety Plan? Maybe you don’t have an Employee Handbook but know you need one? AgSafe can work with you to create these items that are specific to your operation and your agricultural commodity. Did I mention you get a discount on these additional services because you’re a BCFB Agriculture Safe Member? (I did; just making sure you read it.)

Maybe you still want to learn more? I don’t blame you. First I would encourage you to visit www.AgSafe.org and review what AgSafe offers. As a BCFB Agriculture Safe Member you are going to get a username and password for the AgSafe website that will give you the ability to use and download the hundreds of free resources, webinars and templates that you can put into work on your operation immediately.

Next, you need to attend Grower Day on Wednesday, January 9th at the CSU Chico University Farm and hear from AgSafe CEO Amy Wolfe who will be our keynote speaker. Amy is going to speak to the realities of agricultural compliance and why you need to care about it.

Look for more about Grower Day on page _ of this newspaper. Please make note of our new location for Grower Day, the CSU Chico University Farm. Doors open at 7:30 AM. The coffee will be hot, the donuts will be fresh and our sold out tradeshow of local ag companies will be on hand. I want to give a big thanks to Grower Day Presenting Sponsor Nationwide. We are thankful to Nationwide and all of our sponsors and vendors who help make Grower Day possible and have been incredibly flexible and understanding with our change in date and venue for Grower Day.

Lastly, on behalf of the Butte County Farm Bureau and the Butte Ag Foundation, I want to thank the many who supported the Camp Fire Animal Agriculture Fund. We continue to pray for all who have impacted by the fire and are looking forward to a new year and new beginnings.

Camp Fire Animal Agriculture Assistance Fund

On behalf of the agricultural community of Butte County, the Butte Ag Foundation will accept monetary donations that will be used to feed and maintain the livestock that have been impacted by the Camp Fire.

Large and small animals are currently being housed and cared for at the Butte County Fairgrounds in Gridley. The extensive and devastating damage of the Camp Fire has all but eliminated the pens, corrals and barns that these animals once called home. It is likely that many will reside at the fairgrounds for weeks after the fire is contained. Donations to the Butte Ag Foundation will be used for feed, supplies, and health needs of the animals that cannot easily be met through other dedicated funds.

Should funds remain after the livestock have been reunited with owners and/or placed in new homes, funds will be used to repair, replace and or upgrade livestock facilities for future crisis use.

The Butte Agriculture Foundation is a 501(c)3 Public Benefit Corporation and supports locally organized agriculture groups and committees to provide the resources and services needed to be successful in the efforts to inform and promote the value of our agrarian community. For more information visit http://www.ButteAgFoundation.org or call (530) 533-1473. You may also email info@buttefarmbureau.com.

From the Executive Director

Each issue of the Butte County Farm Bureau Newsletter includes an editorial from Executive Director Colleen Cecil. The following was printed in the September/October 2018 Issue of the Butte County Farm News which is mailed to current members of the Butte County Farm Bureau.


I can now add protester to my resume. So can the approximately 80 others from Butte, Glenn, Tehama, Colusa, Yuba and Sutter County Farm Bureaus who jumped on our two chartered busses and headed for Sacramento on Monday, August 20th for the well-publicized Water Grab Rally that took place on the North steps of the Capitol.

It was a day with mixed emotion for me. I was excited to be participating and as I do when I am excited, I smiled. To add to the energy of the day, I saw many in our industry that I consider friends. People who I had not seen in years; people who I have grown up with and worked alongside. We were all there for the same reason and I was generally happy. But I was reminded by someone taking my picture that I probably shouldn’t look so happy. After all, the reason we were there was not a reason to celebrate. I was and still am down right infuriated over the State Water Boards plan for unimpaired flows on the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers.

There is a more factual and detailed article about the Bay Delta Plan Amendment in this newspaper that I encourage you to read to begin to understand the complicated events that have been and will continue to unfold. I however wanted to reflect on the day itself.

More than 1500 people gathered that day. The rally was organized by Assemblyman Adam Gray from the Merced area. The event was important enough that four Congressmen and almost a dozen California Assemblymembers and Senators all addressed those who gathered. Also providing remarks were Central Valley County Supervisors and City Council members.  Each detailing how the unimpaired flows would devastate their already struggling communities.


Assemblymember Gray was the event organizer but it was County Farm Bureau’s that rallied the masses. My colleagues from Merced, Stanislaus, San Joaquin and the North State County Farm Bureaus listed above, spent about five weeks planning our participation with a weekly conference call hosted by California Farm Bureau.

We worked with CFBF’s legal team to see that fact sheets were developed and made public so we could more easily educate on the complicated topic.  We ordered charter busses and identified pick up stops in major points in our community. We blasted social media – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – with notification of the rally and encouragement to participate. I even remember the Facebook post that joked about needing a band at the event. The joke was on them as the Merced Unified High School District made it possible for the Atwater High Marching Band to be in attendance at the rally and keep the energy high.

As much as I wish we didn’t have to participate in this rally, I can now look back and say we needed it. We needed to see farmers from the North and the South join voices for the same issue – water. We chanted, we held our handmade and printed signs, we stood with lifelong farmers and the future of our industry as many blue jackets of the FFA participated too. We showed Sacramento’s appointed regulators they can’t divide us and we are not going to just “adjust” to this new regulation like we have for so many others.

We didn’t win but we were heard. The State Water Board has now pushed their decision on the Phase One till November 7, that day after the November election. Negotiations will continue.

I picked up my boys from school late that Monday afternoon and my six year old, who knew I was going to the Capitol in Sacramento for the Water Rally, asked me, “Mom did they take the farmers water today?” I smiled and told him not today, buddy. Not today.

Butte County Farm Bureau Makes 2018 Election Endorsements

(Oroville, Calif.) – The Butte County Farm Bureau has announced 2018 Election endorsements for Larry Wahl for Butte County Supervisor in District 2, Bob Evans for Butte County Supervisor in District 3 and Diane Brown for Butte County Assessor.

The Board of Directors of the Butte County Farm Bureau hosted all of the candidates for Butte County Supervisor in District 2 and 3 and the candidates for Butte County Assessor for a question and answer forum as part of their April Board Meeting. “Farm Bureau leaders know the critical role that elected officials have in the ability for farmers and ranchers to conduct business in our county,” said Darren Rice, Butte County Farm Bureau President, “and interviewing candidates and making endorsements helps our organization communicate to our members and the agricultural community about these potential decision makers before voters fill in their ballots.”

Butte County Farm Bureau has been politically active for many years in Butte County elections, and makes working with and providing education and information to all county government officials and staff a priority in their program of work.

Supervisor Wahl has earned the Butte County Farm Bureau endorsement before. “Supervisor Wahl maintains a strong position on keeping cannabis from taking over Butte County and threatening the health of our sensitive agricultural lands,” offered Butte County Farm Bureau Executive Director Colleen Cecil.

Bob Evans is seeking the District 3 Supervisor seat that is currently held by Maureen Kirk. Supervisor Kirk is not seeking reelection. “Evans is no stranger to local government and we are confident he will be protect the open space and agricultural landscape of Butte County when elected,” said Rice.

Diane Brown is seeking re-election to the Butte County Assessor seat that she won in 2014. “Ms. Brown has done a great job during her tenure as the assessor; working to modernize and improve efficiencies even with a smaller staff,” said Cecil, “and she is not done and has earned another term at the job.”

The Butte County Farm Bureau, established in 1917, is a non-profit, grassroots organization, supported by 1,300 Butte County farming and ranching families.  The Butte County Farm Bureau represents agriculture and rural interests at the local, state and national levels. For more information on the Farm Bureau or to become a member please call (530) 533-1473 or visit http://www.buttefarmbureau.com.

Why haven’t you joined?

By Lee Heringer, Butte County Farm Bureau 1st Vice President

The Butte County Farm Bureau is represented by growers, farmers and ag business owners. We at BCFB are a part of the California Farm Bureau Federation, representing everything in the state from tree crops to timber, livestock to lettuce. Without membership at the local level, the County would be ill represented at the State level. That is the definition of grassroots. The BCFB Board is made up of your friends and neighbors. We reside in the furthest north areas of Vina to the southernmost reaches of Wyandotte sub basin, from the foothills to the east and west to the Sacramento River. We are farmers, ranchers, processors, bankers and ag industry professionals who take the time to study the issues and decide what we believe is the best course of action for our members. The county board is open for anyone who wants to take the time to look at the bigger picture and learn, in much more detail, about the industry that supports us all.

We here locally have been able to foster leadership and advocacy, at the local and state level, for our issues and be vocal enough to be heard. Work is being done every day on your behalf. It may not show sometimes, after all it is an uphill battle in California. The work of educating lawmakers, debating issues with regulators and legislators, lobbying for private property rights and against bur- densome laws and onerous taxes are responsibilities that Farm Bureau, both locally and at the State level, have been taking on for decades. We have a full time staff who work tirelessly on our issues. You’ve seen them on the news and you’ve seen them at meetings. They are hard at work defending our existence.

As we all know, it has become a full time job on the farm to simply remain compliant. Laws spring up every day deal- ing with issues we are all too aware of. The Food Safety Modernization Act for example, requires every farm to have someone on staff trained to recognize potential threats to food safety. This goes into such detail that wildlife intrusion into your fields and employee hand washing are included. Another example is the Farm Evaluation Survey and corresponding Sediment Erosion Plan if appropriate. We are lucky to have an irrigated education coordinator in the Butte County Farm Bureau office. In this capacity we are able to act as a local voice to State regulators, and help guide you through the process using public outreach meetings we’ve all attended, as well as shield you from further scrutiny.

Farming has become more than simply planting, growing, harvesting and selling. It has become a nearly daily battle of defending your right to farm, that what you are doing is important and necessary. There aren’t many industries under such an assault. Those that are have organizations defending their way of life and their livelihoods. We have Farm Bureau. Farm Bureau is known as the organization that is in the room when decisions are made. When there is something being decided upon, we have people in the room voicing our side. We may not win them all, but it’s not from lack of trying.

One cannot put their head down and ignore what’s coming. The State relies on farmers to do just that. They view California agricultures diversity of crops as a negative for us, banking on different segments of this industry fracturing and protecting their own. Many regulations and especially lawsuits are first introduced into the more rural areas without a lot of money or legal availability. The idea is to build up these easy wins while the rest of the State doesn’t pay attention, saying “that’s their problem.” Pretty soon, and with a full head of steam, the legal precedent is set and it is everybody’s problem.

Even if you are not interested in the politics, your membership dues go towards progreams you can benefit from, such as Grower Day, which pro- vides growers with valuable information as well as CE credits for PCA’s, CCA’s and BYS outreach hours. The Drive Thru BBQ’s, where all proceeds go to scholarships for local high school students bound for Ag related higher education.

You may not be the type who wants to speak up and voice your opinion, but it is important to support those who do it for you. You might not agree with everything the Farm Bureau does, but the overall goal is to continue the Butte County legacy of agriculture into the future. Join up and show your support for the industry that literally puts food on the table. Become involved, join the board, read Ag Alert, contribute to FARMPAC. Come to some meetings (it’s not a secret; they are the first Thursday of every month).

For those of you who are already members, we’d like to thank you for your support. You recognize the importance of the work being done behind the scenes advocating for our industry. For those of you who aren’t, I’d like to offer an invitation to join the fight, in whatever capacity you see fit. It’s never too late to join. Our membership coordinator, Amy Alves, can assist you with any questions you may have regarding your membership. Call her at the office or chat with any board member you may run into at the next meeting.

Welcome Rachel Castanon to BCFB

Rachel Castanon joined the Butte County Farm Bureau team in early August as a Program Coordinator. Rachel will be managing and helping BCFB staff and Board with our many member programs and eventsIMG_6731 throughout the year. You will likely find her answering the phone and she’ll be the first smiling face you see when you visit our office.  She will also serve as the Butte County Outreach and Education Coordinator for the Butte Yuba Sutter Water Quality Coalition. We are excited to have Rachel as part of our Farm Bureau family and we want you to get to know her a bit better. The following Q & A was printed in September/October Butte County Farm News.

Briefly describe where you are originally from and how long you’ve been in Butte County. 
Since I was born! I’ve been raised in Butte County and now coming on 24 years of living in Butte County. I moved away for school for three years, but always returned home.

Where did you attend school and what was your area of study?
After I graduated from Las Plumas High School, I attended Modesto Junior College on an Agriculture Internship where I was an intern in the Agriculture Division Office. I lived on the farm in a housing complex for all 28 Agriculture Interns where I studied Animal Science and Agriculture Business. After two years at Modesto Junior College I transferred to Oklahoma State University for a year and realized how much I missed Butte County and transferred to Chico State University to continue my study of Animal Science and Agriculture Business.

What area of Agriculture are you involved in?
My involvement in agriculture started at a young age, but bloomed in High School where I was fortunate enough to have the best agriculture teachers who took me under their wing and opened many doors of interest to me. I got involved with breeding cattle, sheep, swine, and communication committees to voice the importance of agriculture.

What other organizations are you apart of?
I am involved with the California Paint Horse Association and I am very excited to be a part of the Farm Bureau organization.

What is your big accomplishment in the last 5 years? Or something you are proud to have done or be apart of?
One of my recent accomplishments that I am very proud of is completing my HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) certification. I was fortunate enough to travel with three other Chico State students and our professor to San Antonio, Texas to compete in the American Meat Science Associations quiz bowl to represent Chico State. I was also responsible for composing and executing a recipe for a shelf stable snack stick as well as creating the HACCP plan to go with it. It was an experience I am very pleased to have in my life.

Where’s your favorite vacation spot?
My favorite vacation spot is Half Moon Bay  because it is a close weekend getaway with multiple beaches to visit and watch the surfers and enjoy some good food. If I get a chance for a longer vacation, I would be on the plane to Hawaii.

If you could meet anybody in the world who would it be and why?
At a very young age I was singing into my karaoke machine to George Strait, to the point where no one could understand a word I was saying. I can most likely still be found singing karaoke to George Strait sounding likely the same. If I could meet one person in the world it would have to be George Strait and I pray it is on his ranch so I can get a tour of it.

What else is there to know about you?  –spouse, kids, hobbies…
I am a very active individual and always on the go or looking for something to do. I train with a fitness instructor and am in the gym on my days off training. I love food so  I am very focused on staying fit. During  summer down time, I am most likely to be found wake-boarding or fishing on the lake. I was born a horse loving girl and still am today. Recently I bought a 2 year old filly that I cannot wait to start showing in western pleasure events. Also, when I get the chance, I enjoy taking a trip to the bay to watch the Giants or just to visit a couple beaches to soak up the ocean air and enjoy some good seafood.

BCFB Statement on Settlement Reached in Duarte Case

For Immediate Release
Colleen Cecil

Statement from Clark Becker, Butte County Farm Bureau President on the settlement reached in Federal case against California Farmer John Duarte:

“I don’t know a single farmer that would have stood up to the Federal Government for as long as John Duarte did. At the same time, we also can’t blame him for settling and protecting his family.”

“When it is your family that would ultimately suffer, you do what you have to do to protect them. The Federal Government assessed the worth of multiple generations of the Duarte family and their agricultural business to threaten John with a penalty so large it would have ruined his life and the lives of his 500 employees and their families. Settling for a lessor penalty was his best case scenario unfortunately, and the Federal Government knew that.”

“We thank John Duarte, Duarte Nursery, Inc. and the Pacific Legal Foundation for keeping the spotlight on the confusing, conflicting and misinterpreted government regulations that businesses are expected to understand and follow and a Federal agency interpreting a clear law to accomplish its own agenda with zero regard for fact, science or humanity.”

Standing Up for Duarte Nursery

On Aug 11, 2017, the Butte County Farm Bureau introduced a challenge to all California County Farm Bureau’s and all State and County Farm Bureau’s in the US to make a donation to the Duarte Legal fund of $10 per agriculture member of each County Farm Bureau.
Butte County Farm Bureau President Clark Becker said, “John Duarte has put his family’s entire livelihood at risk to fight for you – America’s Farmers and Ranchers. He will soon have the opportunity to appeal the judges ruling and it is our turn to support him and stand up to protect our farms.”

What is the issue?
The United States government is prosecuting California farmer John Duarte and Duarte Nursery, Inc. of Hughson California under the Clean Water Act for planting wheat in a wheat field in Tehama County, California. The wetlands in question had been farmed to wheat many times prior, were farmed in the same manner as many hundreds of thousands of other acreages, and are still fully functioning as wetlands.


Plowing is legal under the Clean Water Act, but so far the United States government has successfully argued that plowing is only legal if it does not move soil. The Duarte’s, like other farmers, have yet to understand how plowing can be done without moving soil. If this unprecedented prosecution succeeds, it threatens nearly every farm in the United States.

Who are the Duarte’s?
The Duarte Family is a multigenerational farming family in California. Their main business is Duarte Nursery, Inc. in Hughson, CA, which annually employs up to 700 people and serves over 1,500 farm customers with nursery trees and vines.

What did they do to trigger this prosecution?
In 2012 the Duarte’s planted winter wheat on the property. Wheat plantings and the shallow tillage involved have never triggered regulation, nor required permitting prior to this case. The prosecution got started when a federal bureaucrat confused the shallow 4-6 inch tillage operation with 3-4 feet deep ripping for vineyard or orchard preparation.

In February of 2013 the Duarte’s received a letter from the federal government ordering them to cease and desist all work on the property. The Duartes requested a hearing to establish facts. They were not granted a hearing. Through the Pacific Legal Foundation, the Duartes sued for a Constitutional violation of their Fifth Amendment right to due process. There is direct evidence that this destruction of wetlands suit is in retaliation for the Duartes civil rights action against the government.

What are the penalties being sought?
$2.8M in direct penalty, loss of use of their land, and $20-$30 million in additional mitigation paid to a private third-party organization. These penalties are not based on environmental harm, but rather on the government’s assessment of how much it can squeeze from the Duartes. No farmer or investor in farming could afford these kinds of penalties for a mere wheat crop.

What wetlands are jurisdictional under the CWA?
The Clean Water Act regulates “navigable water of the United States … ” Courts and agencies have greatly expanded what most would consider navigable waters, to include large areas of property that are bone-dry most of the year, except for when they pool small amounts of water in the wet season.

This prosecution is brought under the rules that existed before the Obama Administration promulgated the new rule in 2015- the “WOTUS Rule”- expanding the Clean Water Act. That WOTUS Rule has been stayed by the federal courts, and the Trump Administration has formally proposed the new rule’s repeal. In other words, Duarte is being prosecuted under the definition of “navigable waters” that existed before the Obama Administration’s rule, and which would exist if the Trump Administration is successful in repealing that new rule.

Aren’t farming practices excluded from CWA enforcement?
Yes. Originally very broadly. Federal agencies are attempting to greatly narrow the original intent to include only lands that are continuously farmed to the same or similar crops, and then only if that farming does not involve moving soil. This is unworkable for farmers who must plow their land to plant crops, and adapt to markets. Wheat prices were very low for decades until the global food shortages that occurred between 2009 and 2013. We can recall tortilla riots in Mexico City, the Arab Spring and high food inflation with low wage growth during this period. This narrow interpretation is not only unworkable for farmer; it also threatens national food security and is anti-human.

What are the civil rights issues?
The case started with a Fifth Amendment Due Process claim that asserted that the Duartes had a right to an impartial hearing before they could be deprived of their right to farm their land.

The destruction of wetlands counterclaim was justified by a Federal attorney with the statement, “They’re suing us so we are suing them back.” This is a First Amendment free speech violation against the Duartes.

The Eighth Amendment is usually noted for protection against cruel and unusual punishment yet also protects us from ruinous fines. The prosecution’s stated penalties in this case are clearly aimed at being ruinous.

What has the Judge ruled so far?
That Duartes shallow tillage violated the Clean Water Act, and that the federal government is immune from suit even when it violates constitutional rights.

This doesn’t sound right. Is there more to the story?
No. It really is just a wheat field with 4-7 inch tillage. Field tours are available.

The Duarte Nursery, Inc legal and lobbying teams are in full operation. In California, the legal team is preparing for trial, which begins August 15, 2017. This will be a $500k effort alone.

In Washington DC, the Duarte Nursery Inc. lobbying team is working to access multiple agencies in the Trump administration. This is an additional costly effort.

The Pacific Legal Foundation is prosecuting the Constitutional claims against the U.S. government.

The California Farm Bureau Federation has created the Duarte Defense Account, which has received over $100K in donations from Farm Bureaus and other agriculture advocacy groups nationwide. The Butte County Farm Bureau Challenge will ask for funds to be submitted to the California Farm Bureau Federation for collection and distribution.

If you wish to donate via the Butte County Farm Bureau/California Farm Bureau, donate online here or mail your donations to :
California Farm Bureau Federation
2300 River Plaza Drive
Sacramento, CA 95833
Check Memo Line: Duarte/Tehama Wetland Defense Fund

Protect the Harvest Foundation will be coordinating additional private donations to the Duarte Nursery, Inc. defense.

Donations are being accepted at Go Fund Me.

Resources: Duarte Tehema – Duarte Stands Up Facebook Page