By CHRIS BENNETT Farm Journal Inc, Ag Web August 30, 2021
When the federal government placed a regulatory bull’s-eye on 2.2 acres of Nick Smith’s farmland, the tiny designation stretched into a blanket covering all 2,200 acres of his land. Farmer, veteran, and former congressman, Smith was pulled into a bureaucratic rabbit hole in 2008 and lost all farm program dollars—but emerged 10 years later to tell the tale.
According to a federal court ruling, the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) forced Smith to navigate a “bureaucratic labyrinth” and “demonstrated a disregard for its own regulations.” Piling on irony, Smith’s 2.2 acres had been farmed and drained since the 1960s, with a full tile system paid for and approved by USDA.
“I want every corn and soybean farmer to know this could happen to them, because these kinds of cases are still going on right now, but you never hear from the farmers involved because they’re too scared or get swallowed by the costs or the bureaucracy,” says Smith. “I wish my story was unique, but it’s not by any means.”
In 1838, Smith’s great-great-great grandfather bought land in the picturesque, rolling topography of present-day Hillsdale County, outside Addison, Mich.,