June 28, 2023

Farmers win in flooded farmland appeal case

Topic: Issues

A U.S. Appeals Court recently ruled in favor of farmers suing the federal government seeking payment for destroyed crops stemming from atypical river flooding along the Missouri River. Travis Cushman, AFBF Deputy General Counsel for Litigation and Public Policy, explains the case led by Ideker Farms of Missouri.

"This case was brought almost ten years ago as a result of the Army Corps of Engineers flooding hundreds and hundreds of farms up and down the Missouri River. The flooding started back in 2007. This happened over seven years or so, and so what happened is all this farmland was destroyed, crops were destroyed, and the farmer sued the government to get not only the damages to the crops, but also to recover the land that was taken as a result of this flooding," Cushman said.

The initial ruling did not grant farmers payments for damaged crops.

"Initially, the farmers won on the fact their land had been taken but did not win on the lost crops they had of the seven to eight years or so before they filed the lawsuit," Cushman said. "We got involved with the appeal to file a brief on behalf of the farmers arguing that their crops should be recoverable damages and explaining how farm economics work."

The recent appeals court opinion confirmed the government violated the Fifth Amendment prohibition on the taking of private property without just compensation.

"The appellate court held not only was this a taking of the land, but also that the farmers deserve to be paid for all the crops that were destroyed over the seven years as the AFBF brief had argued. This is a huge win not only for those at stake, but it sets an important precedent that the government can't just be flooding land and destroying crops without paying for it. Otherwise, the government would have a pretty perverse incentive to slowly be just flooding lands when it wants to do things like this and not have to pay the farmers for the hard work they did in putting these crops together," Cushman said.