Closed: Case settled without a decision on the merits

Jack LaPant is a longtime northern California farmer and rancher who, in 2011, set out to plow a piece of his land in order to grow wheat. He followed all the rules of the Clean Water Act and consulted multiple federal agencies before taking plow to soil. During his inquiries, he was even told that despite the presence of previously farmed wetlands, his Department of Agriculture records showed that his property was an active farm.

What Jack didn’t know was that government bureaucrats were monitoring his farming activity, and in 2016 the Army Corps of Engineers sued Jack for millions of dollars for not obtaining a CWA permit from the United States Army to plow his land.

Jack shouldn’t need a permit. Congress built an exception into the CWA for “normal farming practices.”

In addition, the CWA allows the Army to sue only over violations of its own permits, and not for any other type of alleged violation of the Act. Jack’s alleged violations actually fall under the purview of the Environmental Protection Agency, which took no legal action against him.

Represented by Pacific Legal Foundation free of charge, Jack asked a federal court to stop the abusive treatment by his own government and drop his case. Ultimately, the case was settled without a decision on the merits

What’s At Stake?

  • Americans shouldn’t need government permission for normal farming or ranching on their land, even if they decide to take a break for a few years.
  • Congress carved out an exception in the Clean Water Act for normal farming practices. Bureaucrats can’t rewrite the laws to require permits just because they don’t agree with Congress’s policy decision.

Case Timeline