Farm Lenders and Farming Organizations File Amicus Brief in Crucial Ninth Circuit Water Case

Food and Agriculture Law  

May 23, 2014

On May 22, 2014, Farm Credit West, CoBank, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the California Farm Bureau Federation, Western Growers Association, and the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to rehear a decision that would, if left unchanged, place significant restrictions on operation of the Central Valley Project (CVP) and State Water Project (SWP).  The two projects deliver water pumped from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta (Delta) and serve as the primary source of surface water for California’s most productive farm land.  The Delta also contains certain fish species that are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), including a fish called the delta smelt.  In 2008, federal resource agencies sought to impose limits on operation of the SWP and CVP in attempts to create favorable conditions for the delta smelt.  In approving the most recent of these limitations, the Ninth Circuit held that federal agencies need not consider the significant economic impacts to third parties like California’s agricultural economy when developing measures to protect endangered species.

The farm lenders and agricultural organizations joining the amicus brief added the important perspective of the broader agricultural community and economy for the Ninth Circuit to consider.  The brief filed with the court highlighted the enormous regulatory and economic uncertainty created by the decision under review and explained the wide-ranging ripple effects that uncertainty would have for the California economy, including tightening farm credit, millions of dollars in lost farm revenue, and thousands of lost jobs.  ESA decisions affecting a resource as economically crucial as water bring the importance of considering such impacts into sharp relief.