Missing Justice Scalia

By Gary Joiner

The sudden passing of Supreme Court of the U.S. Justice Antonin Scalia sent shockwaves through our country’s political and legal communities.

And through agriculture.

Much is at stake right now for America’s farmers and ranchers at the nation’s highest court. There are important challenges to the expansive reach of federal agencies. These court rulings will impact everyday agriculture.

One case involves the Chesapeake Bay. The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) is challenging the EPA-led cleanup plan for the Bay. There’s no doubt opponents to the plan were counting on Scalia’s support in arguing the massive EPA blueprint infringes on states’ rights to determine land use.

The eight remaining Supreme Court justices will now decide whether to hear the case. Legal experts say Scalia’s death makes it less likely the high court will agree to hear AFBF’s challenge. If the court passes it over, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling upholding the plan would remain in place. That’s not a good outcome for farmers and ranchers.

Another case involves the Army Corps of Engineers. The court will hear arguments over whether landowners can challenge in court the Corps’ determinations about which streams and wetlands on a property are subject to Clean Water Act protections. Justice Scalia wrote the majority opinion in a 2012 case where justices ruled unanimously that compliance orders are reviewable.

There’s also the new Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule. The loss of Scalia and the naming of his replacement are significant. Both have a major impact on determining the ultimate jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act through challenges of the WOTUS rule.

The Supreme Court’s interest in property rights cases grew in recent years. Justice Scalia supported opinions that farmers and ranchers consistently viewed as favorable. His absence from the bench leaves a significant void and perspective that American agriculture respected and counted on. His conservative jurisprudence will be missed.

Gary Joiner

Gary Joiner is the senior associate director of Public Relations for Texas Farm Bureau.

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