Supreme Court is Back in Action

By Jordan D. Dux, sr. director of national affairs

The U.S. Supreme Court came back into session on Monday of this week. The court, as always, has a long list of cases it will hear including two cases that will have a direct impact on our nation’s farmers and ranchers. Those cases, Sackett v. EPA and National Pork Producers Council v. Ross, are being heard by the court over the next two weeks with decisions expected in early 2023.

The Sackett case revolves around the correct definition of “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS), which, in so many words, will dictate which bodies of water come under federal vs. state regulatory control. The long-running dispute, which was heard by the Court this week, centers on an Idaho couple who were hoping to build a home on new property in 2007 but received a stop work order from the EPA. The agency asserted that the property contained “navigable waters,” or wetlands subject to Clean Water Act protections. This case comes as the EPA is looking to rewrite President Trump’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule which itself was a rewrite of President Obama’s 2015 WOTUS rule. While Farm Bureau has maintained that EPA should halt all rule-making until after the Sackett decision is offered by the Court, EPA has made it clear they intend on moving forward. Nebraska Farm Bureau has worked with other state Farm Bureaus to file an amicus brief in support of the Sackett family. All in all this case has the potential to profoundly impact the level of federal regulatory control farmers and ranchers will see on their property.

California’s Proposition 12

The National Pork Producers Council case takes aim at California’s Proposition 12 which bans the sale of pork in California from hogs that don’t meet California’s production standards, even if the pork was raised on farms outside of California. American Farm Bureau and National Pork Producers Council filed the challenge, arguing Proposition 12 violates the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause. In a huge win for the “good guys,” the U.S. Government has come down on our side offering an amicus brief which details how the California law violates the Constitution and will burden interstate commerce. This case will be heard on October 11. While the particulars of these cases are obviously different, we are hopeful each case’s outcome will be the same…the U.S. Supreme Court telling government to leave us alone. Far too often farmers and ranchers are spending their time contending with the dictates of those who simply don’t understand what it takes to grow and raise the food that sits on their plates. The long-used quote from former President and Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower says it best, “You know, farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.” Farm Bureau is hopeful the court’s ruling on both of these cases allows our nation’s farm and ranch families to continue to do what they do best, grow the food, fiber, and fuel for our country and world.

Lincoln County Celebrates Rancher-Owned Meatpacking Plant and Industrial Rail Park

Two Nebraska Farm Bureau backed projects in the North Platte area were celebrated by Governor Ricketts and other statewide leaders. The Sustainable Beef project, called Sustainable Beef, LLC, broke ground Oct. 4. It is a collaborative of Nebraska ranchers and agricultural leaders who have invested to open a large, independent, beef processing plant in North Platte. The Hershey Rail Park Project also was celebrated. After receiving a $30 million grant from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development to build a rail access business park, the area is applying to become an inland port authority. Inland port authorities will collect exportable Nebraska products, mainly agricultural in nature, to be cleared by customs and shipped.

NEFB Talks Precision Ag with GAO

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) was recently tasked by Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer to provide a report of “precision agriculture” as part of the CHIPS and Science Act. The mission of the GAO is to provide Congress, executive branch agencies, and the public with non-partisan information to help improve government and save taxpayer dollars. As part of their research, the GAO recently met with representatives from American Farm Bureau, Kansas Farm Bureau, and Nebraska Farm Bureau to help them better understand what “precision agriculture” is and how farmers and ranchers utilize it. The wide-ranging discussion covered new technologies being employed in both crop and livestock production. The consistent message from Farm Bureau was that new technologies help farmers and ranchers produce more with less, whether that be fertilizer, chemicals, or water. The GAO will continue to reach out to other stakeholders and will provide a final report in the months ahead.

NEFB Meets with OMB on Biden WOTUS Rule

President Biden’s rewrite of former President Trump’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which itself was a rewrite of President Obama’s 2015 WOTUS rule, is currently in its final stages of review with the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Before regulations are released by federal agencies, they must be reviewed by the OMB. As part of that review, stake holders can meet with the necessary agencies and the OMB to offer their thoughts before the rule/regulation is released. Nebraska Farm Bureau participated in this process this week as the OMB looks to release President Biden’s new WOTUS rule which will ultimately determine the reach of the federal government when it comes to regulating water. Farm Bureau staff from Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, and American Farm Bureau told the agencies any new rule shouldn’t be released until after the Supreme Court’s decision on the Sackett v. EPA case which will have a significant impact on the reach of this new rule. Participants also discussed Farm Bureau’s opposition to expanding the reach of the Clean Water Act as it would not only limit what farmers and ranchers can do with their land, but would also likely limit their ability to conduct conservation work on their property as well. Lastly, ensuring any and all exemptions are clearly written in order to ensure compliance by farmers and ranchers is also priority. EPA is likely to release their final rule in the months ahead.

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