Cedar Rapids, IA; April 16, 2024: Today, an Iowa farm owner filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture for its attempt to restrict farming activities on land it owns in Iowa under the Swampbuster provisions of the 1985 Food Security Act. 

“The Constitution does not grant the federal government the power to regulate any piece of land in the country it wishes,” said Paige Gilliard, an attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation. “Nor may government force people to give up their rights in exchange for a government benefit.” 

Jim Conlan, owner of CTM Holdings, grew up in a farming family and set out to invest in farmland in Iowa — including the farm that once belonged to his grandparents — to reconnect with his roots amid a successful career as a corporate attorney.  

On one 71-acre farm, the Natural Resources Conservation Service dubiously designated protected wetlands scattered across the property. Swampbuster prohibits farming on the acres where the wetlands were identified or else the farmers will be excluded from essential assistance programs — making the entire farm impractical to cultivate. Assistance programs like those affected by Swampbuster should not be contingent on property owners signing away their rights to use their land.  

“The government cannot condition benefits on the waiver of a constitutional right—in this case, the Fifth Amendment right to be compensated when the government takes some or all of your land,” said Loren Seehase, Senior Counsel at the Liberty Justice Center. “If welfare recipients had to promise to never criticize the government to receive welfare benefits, it would be plainly unconstitutional. Why should farmers’ rights be any different?” 

If left unchecked, the government will be able to use Swampbuster to achieve what the Supreme Court said it cannot under the Clean Water Act in Sackett. That is, to prohibit beneficial activity on vast swaths of land from coast to coast. The courts should stop this abuse of Swampbuster just like they stopped the abuse of the Clean Water Act.  

The case is CTM Holdings LLC v. USDA, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa. CTM is represented jointly by Liberty Justice Center, Pacific Legal Foundation, and Upper Midwest Law Center. 

About Liberty Justice Center 

The Liberty Justice Center is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, public-interest litigation center that fights to protect fundamental constitutional rights. The Liberty Justice Center is best known for its 2018 U.S. Supreme Court victory in Janus v. AFSCME. 


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About Pacific Legal Foundation

Pacific Legal Foundation is a national nonprofit law firm that defends Americans threatened by government overreach and abuse. Since our founding in 1973, we challenge the government when it violates individual liberty and constitutional rights. With active cases in 34 states plus Washington, D.C., PLF represents clients in state and federal courts, with 18 wins of 20 cases litigated at the U.S. Supreme Court.

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