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Agency Interpretation and Enforcement Upheld as Not Contrary to Law
Description Appeals court held that an agency's interpretation of when farm land is a wetland was consistent with the statute the agency upheld. The agency's determination that the regulation had been violated was also executed properly, so it will be upheld.
Topic Administrative Law
Key Words Exhaustion; Interpretation; Statutory Meaning
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Ballanger bought farmland in Missouri. The seller told him that it did not have any wetlands on it. Ballanger cleared about five acres of vegetation to extend the planting area on the farm. Six years later, the County Farm Service Agency asked the Conservation Service if Ballanger's farm complied with regulations concerning protection of wetlands. The Conservation Service determined that the five acres that had been cleared were wetlands and that Ballanger was not due crop payments of $40,316 he had received previously. He was ordered to repay that money. Ballanger contested the decision, but the Department of Agriculture ruled against him. Ballanger then sued. The district court upheld the administrative ruling. Ballanger appealed.
Decision Affirmed. The determination of the issue has been exhausted at the administrative level. The agency followed proper procedure, and Ballanger also followed agency procedure in making his appeal of the decision. As the decision of the agency is final, the issue is now ripe for review. The court's purpose is to ensure that proper process was followed by the agency, which was the case. Further, the court is to consider if the agency did not interpret its regulations about what constitutes a wetland properly. While there can be arguments about what exactly qualifies for wetlands, the court will not interfere with the agency's determination, unless its action is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law. The agency's decision was not contrary to law, nor otherwise abusive, so its interpretation of the regulation and decision stand.
Citation Ballanger v. Johanns,---F.3d--- (2007 WL 2189064, 8th Cir., 2007)

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