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South Dakota farmer files lawsuit against U.S. Department of Agriculture

Updated: May. 7, 2021 at 11:08 PM CDT
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MINER COUNTY, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - A South Dakota farmer has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He claims the federal government is forcing him to choose between farming his property or participating in federal farm programs.

The lawsuit is based around a section of Miner County farmland that belongs to Arlen Foster.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service deemed some of the land as a protected wetland.

Foster has requested the government revisit this designation, but he was refused.

The wetland is right in the middle of a farm field, almost 1-acre large.

“In wetter years it just stays muddy and they’re not able to get equipment into it without being able to drain it, so they can’t farm it in wetter years,” said Tony Francois, Foster’s attorney.

If the land was drained to allow for farming, it could make the Foster’s land ineligible for farming grants.

“I would analogies to the role of the federal student loan program, in young people being able to attend college. In theory, you could do without them, but the whole business model is arranged around them,” said Francois. “So being ineligible for them as we say in the complaint would make it difficult for them to make a living on their own land.”

Foster’s lawsuit argues that he has a right to use his property as he sees fit, and by forcing him to choose between using his field or receiving crop insurance is a violation of his rights

“The lawsuit is asking the court to tell the agency the fosters have a statutory right to have this prior certification reviewed,” said Francois.

The Pacific Legal Foundation is representing the Foster. The firm says causes like these are not uncommon.

“We think its critically important as the government is getting more and more into the business of distributing money as a means of economic activity, that it is not allowed to attach unconstitutional strings.”

The Department of Agriculture was unavailable for comment about Foster’s case on Friday.

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