The American Farm Bureau Federation and U.S. Sugar Corporation have filed suit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. They say recent action by the Corps goes against a 1993 rule that excluded prior converted croplands from regulation under the Clean Water Act. Calling it an example of regulatory overreach, Farm Bureau says Corps actions would subject croplands to federal control if farmers take their prior converted cropland out of crop production and change its use.
According to Farm Bureau, there are more than 53 million acres of prior converted cropland in the U.S. currently. Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman says these lands are out of the realm of Clean Water Act Jurisdiction, which means the Corps can't regulate them as waters of the U.S. Stallman says that's important because the value of prior converted croplands is significantly higher than land encumbered by costly federal wetlands regulations.
Until recently Farm Bureau says farmers could rely on the 1993 regulations and could use prior converted cropland for both agricultural and non-agricultural uses. They say 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. Stallman says now the Corps is trying to arbitrarily change the rules of the game, which would have significant impacts on land values and property rights.