SCOTUS denies appeal of Eighth Circuit agricultural wetlands ruling

by Rox Laird | January 11, 2017

The U.S. Supreme Court Monday shut the door to an appeal from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit on how the U.S. Department of Agriculture defines agricultural wetlands.

That leaves in place the Eighth Circuit ruling that the USDA appropriately designated a piece of South Dakota farmland to be a wetland. That ruling affects Iowa, which is within the jurisdiction of the Eighth Circuit, and which has similar wetland characteristics as South Dakota and other Midwest states.

South Dakota farmers Arlen and Cindy Foster had petitioned the Supreme Court to review the Eighth Circuit’s April ruling, which held that the U.S. Department of Agriculture appropriately designated a piece of the couples’ farmland to be a wetland.

The question is: When distinguishing a wetland from an ordinary piece of farmland, should the federal courts defer to the USDA’s interpretation of its own rules?

Federal appeals courts are divided on that question: While the Eighth and the Sixth Circuits have said courts should defer to the USDA, the Fifth Circuit has held that they should not. By denying review of the South Dakotans’ appeal, the Supreme Court passed up an opportunity to resolve that split, at least for now.

(Go to On Brief for more background on the appeal of the Eighth Circuit’s ruling in Foster v. Vilsack.)



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On Brief: Iowa’s Appellate Blog is devoted to appellate litigation with a focus on the Iowa Supreme Court, the Iowa Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.


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