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In the early 1990's, a long time Nevada cattle rancher refused to pay grazing fee permits payable to the Federal Government.   He claimed he had rights to the ground predating the federal government. Two decades of lawsuits have ensued and continue. Legally, I believe the rancher never had  have a good case.

Personally, I like the approach offered by Texas Lawyer Zach Brady

"I would like to see a serious effort to privatize most federal land. Not Yosemite or Yellowstone or Glacier, not Gettysburg, not Mt Rushmore.  Garden variety range land could be sold. Get it appraised. Give current tenants first shot, maybe even at a discount if they have been grazing it for 10 years and are paid up on fees. Only American citizens who file taxes each of the last ten years can submit bids." Why does the federal government have to own scrub land anyway?

This battle was spurred by a 1993 decision of the Federal government to impose restrictions on grazing specified land which was inhabited by a federally protected desert tortoise on the endangered species list. Ironically, a 23 year long refuge for tortoises is now being cut for lack of funding and the tortoises in that protected facility are slated to be killed.

The action has heated up again because the feds have taken steps to remove the rancher's 900 head of cattle. Protesters are being restricted to "freedom of speech zones", out of the way of the government forces. Freedom of speech zones sounds like something out of Orwell's 1984, not something the founding fathers envisioned.  However, our desire to protect abortion clinic users from upfront confrontation with protesters, has spawned this concept of limiting free speech to "zones", which are often times ineffective at having an audience with access to hear them.

Most troubling perhaps, is the absolute lack of knowledge on the part of a large majority of Americans about ranching, cattle grazing, or rural America in general. Many folks in the cities don't approve of large scale ag, in any form, no matter how many farm tours we give. I remember watching a news segment when I was a kid, an inner city dweller was asked about the farm crisis, his response was "I don't care about farmers, if I want milk I will go to the store and buy it." To my young ears, that seemed pretty moronic in factual application. As an adult, the implications are much clearer and troubling.  The urban dweller knows capitalism and the government will provide enough nutrients to keep them from getting hungry and rioting for change, no matter what the cost. Popular movies like the The Hunger Games and Soylent Green play upon this very theme. Well-fed people do not break things, kill people, or remove governments from power. If you are a younger reader, watch Soylent Green  , it is worth watching as you won't find modern cinema quite like it.

I believe that many urban folks would just as soon see any country side within a couple hours' drive of their abode be held as if the dinosaurs or plains Indians were still in charge of it, with limited country stores that are "renewable and sustainable", with maybe some windmills and solar panels placed where they don't interrupt patio views from the winery used as a backdrop for "selfie" photos.
They get this legally creating schemes to reduce the usability of the land through siting restrictions on where ag can build modern facilities, when ag operations can apply manure, and the like. In the future, instead of a removal of weight restrictions for grain hauling in the fall, I can see the weight limits being further reduced to remove "dangerous trucks" to protect the common good.
In fact, many of the ag operators will willingly submit to the restrictions on actions undertaken for the oldest form of power, money. Those that don't want to submit will find that absent a blatant take of liberty, the courts will enforce the legislator's laws and the executive branch's administrative rules.

As farm operations shrink, the voice becomes even smaller, and holds less and less sway with our elected officials. Consider Iowa, where candidate for Senate, running to represent the state at the federal level Senate, publicly belittled farmers in his pitch for campaign dollars.  That, on the surface, would appear to be suicidal to your candidacy. Yet, the candidate has had no internal party challenger and is quite competitive against his field of challengers from the other party. When you peel back the numbers, less than 5% of Iowan's actually farm, but it is in the top three nationally for number of farms, crop sales, and livestock sales. Think of what the difference would have been in Iowa's vote counts in the last presidential election if Des Moines, Dubuque, Davenport, Cedar Rapids and Cedar Falls/Waterloo were removed from the count.

Monday, September 16, 2019
  • Patrick B. Dillon
  • Jill Dillon
Dillon Law PC
Patrick B. Dillon enjoys finding solutions to legal issues and catching problems for clients. Pat practices in the Sumner office regularly represents clients in district, associate district and magistrate courts for agricultural, real estate, criminal and collection issues. He drafts wills and trusts, creates estate plans and helps clients through the probate process.
Dillon Law PC
Jill Dillon focuses on family law, estate planning and IRS matters. Jill is a University of Northern Iowa undergraduate (Political Science Cum Laude) and a Drake University Law School graduate. Jill spent extensive time advocating for low income tax payers in front of the IRS and the State of Iowa Department of Revenue while at Drake.

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