$1.5 Million Fine For Plowing?

Results of A recent California judicial ruling indicate plowing and deep ripping of wetlands may be against the law. As many no-tillers have maintained for years, the cropping and environmental perils of plowing may finally be recognized when it comes to controlling erosion and protecting our land.

The Clean Water Case 

A federal judge has fined Galt, Calif., farmer Angelo Tsakopoulos $1.5 million for “deep plowing.” The judge ruled deep plowing violated sections of the federal Clean Water Act. Even so, many ag people are concerned that this ruling may set a dangerous precedent since one of farming’s basic tillage tools could be designated as an instrument of water pollution.

U.S. District Judge Garlan Burrell, Jr., ruled that Tsakopoulos committed 358 violations of federal environmental law. Burrell gave him the option of paying a $1.5 million fine or paying $500,000 to finance a 4-acre environmental restoration project on his ranch. The judge reasoned that Tsakopoulos must pay a stiff civil penalty or make appropriate restoration for “depriving the nation of wetlands that support wildlife and endangered species.”

The judge rejected the farmer’s challenge to the power of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate deep ripping on the 8,348 acre ranch. The EPA’s counterclaim for water law violations, which is the first action of its kind in the nation, is being closely watched by farming interests.

Government agencies argue that deep ripping destroyed sensitive wetlands and violated federal law. “The amount of…

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Frank Lessiter

Frank Lessiter has served as editor of No-Till Farmer since the publication was launched in November of 1972. Raised on a six-generation Michigan Centennial Farm, he has spent his entire career in agricultural journalism. Lessiter is a dairy science graduate from Michigan State University.

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