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In a precedent-setting case, a panel of federal Ninth Court of Appeals judges recently ruled that certain tillage practices may fall under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers.
The ruling came after a California farmer plowed his ranch using the “deep ripping” method to plant fruit crops. By doing so without a federal permit, he allegedly destroyed wetlands protected under the federal Clean Water Act. (For details that included a $1.5 million fine for the farmer, see page 3 of the June, 2000, issue of No-Till Farmer.)
“It’s depressing,” says Arthur Coon, one of the farmer’s attorneys. “It is a very significant issue to farmers across the country that plowing can be defined as a discharge of pollutants into navigable waters of the United States. We’ve certainly come a long way from what Congress intended in the Clean Water Act.”