posted by
Property Rights Foundation of America®

Reprinted from Positions on Property, Vol. 2, No. 3 (PRFA, July 1995)

An Open Letter to Congressman Pat Roberts

September 22, 1995

Honorable Pat Roberts
Chairman, House Agriculture Committee
United States Representative
First District of Kansas
1126 Longworth House Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20515-1601

Dear Congressman Roberts:

I am writing to you with regard to the 1995 Farm Bill which is now under consideration by your committee. Not unlike many other farmers in the mid-1980's, I experienced severe financial problems. As a result on August 24, 1987, I was foreclosed on and 1893 acres of land which I owned went into FmHA inventory. Insolvent and unable to continue, I filed a Chapter 7 Liquidation Bankruptcy. I received my discharge in bankruptcy on January 27, 1988, discharging, among other things, all the debt which I owed FmHA.

On June 16, 1988, FmHA offered me my lease back/buy back rights afforded me by Congress as a part of the 1985 Food and Security Act, as amended by the Agricultural Act of 1987. 7 U.S.C. § 1985 (e) (1) (A) (i). Even though I wanted only part of the land, I was not given that option. It was take all of it or none. FmHA deeded the land to me on April 17, 1989. Pursuant to what it perceived as its authority under Executive Order 11990, FmHA placed wetlands easements on the 1004 best acres of my farm. Even though I bought the land back, these easements prohibit me from doing anything with the land except paying taxes on it. On the other hand, they allow the Government to do whatever it pleases with the land.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been able to purchase some land around my farm and has built a wildlife refuge. It wanted my land for the refuge and since it couldn't buy it, it simply took it by having FmHA place wetlands easements on it.

When my Country called me during the Second World War, I went to do my duty and fought in a mortar platoon in the Hurtgen Forest, among other places. I have always tried to be a good citizen, have obeyed the law and always paid my taxes. I am greatly disturbed at the arrogance and high-handed attitude of the government in confiscating my farm land. All Fish and Wildlife had to do to confiscate it was send one of its bureaucrats out in a government sedan who spent thirty minutes on the property, saw some water and declared it to be a wetland. Most of the land which was declared wetlands was land I had farmed for over twenty years in soybeans and rice.

I think the bureaucrats at Fish and Wildlife believe any land with water laying on it, no matter how small the puddle, is a wetland. It mattered nothing to them. They get their paycheck from the taxpayers at the end of the month regardless. To me it was important because I had spent the best years of my life farming this land.

I spent over $30,000 in legal fees battling Fish and Wildlife in Federal Court trying to get back the land which it had confiscated from me. I ultimately lost the money and the land. The thing that makes me and all the other little folk out here in the hinterland so angry is the arrogance of you folks up there inside the Washington Beltway. I sincerely hope that you will use the power of your office to trim back the power of the Fish and Wildlife Service to confiscate whatever land it wants to use for wildlife refuges. I hope you will investigate my case and I hope you will add a provision to the 1995 Farm Bill retroactive to the effective date of the 1987 Agricultural Credit Act in January, 1988, allowing farmers like me to get the wetland easements off of the land which we have bought out of FmHA inventory. If you need additional information from me, please do not hesitate to call.

Sincerely,

W.L. Harris
Holcomb, MS 38940

Click here to make a tax-deductible donation to PRFA!

Back to:
Mississippi State Index Government Land Ownership and Control - National Positions on Property Conservation Easements
PRFA Home Page