Ventura County is home to over 100,000 acres of irrigated farmland and over two thousand farming operations, producing billions of servings of fruits and vegetables. This fertile area is known around the world for its optimal agriculture. But recently, California has been hit by record-breaking rain and snow, putting our crops at high risk.
Communities in the San Bernardino mountains were trapped in or kept out by heavy snowfall. Snow landed in Santa Barbara and Napa counties, threatening grape vineyards. Winds of 80 and 100 miles per hour hit Valencia and Mammoth Mountain. respectively. Early estimates in Monterey County suggest that damages will be over $330 million, and dames for the wider region will be nearly $1 billion. Crops grown include lettuce, spinach, broccoli, artichokes, and cauliflower. The full extent of the damage remains to be seen, and final figures won’t come this year.
When rain and flooding damage crops, the severity of the damage depends on various factors such as:
- The amount and intensity of the rainfall
- The type of crop
- The stage of crop growth
- Drainage capacity of the soil and bedrock
The punishing drought that California has experienced for the past three years makes matters worse, as the soil and geologic systems were ill-prepared for the deluge that came.
Exorbitant rainfall can lead to soil erosion, leaching of nutrients from the soil, and waterlogging, which can suffocate the roots of the plants and lead to stunted growth or death. Heavy rains can also lead to flooding, washed away crops, contaminated fields with debris or pollutants, and problematic soil compaction. This action can make it difficult for plants to absorb nutrients and water, which can result in reduced yield, poor-quality crops, or total crop failure.
Legal Recourse When the Government Causes Flooding
If the government causes flooding of your crops, you may be able to seek compensation or relief through legal means. This will depend on various factors, such as what causes the flooding, the scope of the damage, and the applicable laws and regulations in your jurisdiction.
One option is to file a claim with the government agency responsible for the damages. This could be a local, state, or federal agency, depending on the events that occurred. You will have to provide documentation of the damage, such as pictures, crop yield data, and the like, and sufficient evidence of the government’s responsibility for the flooding.
Consider consulting with a lawyer who specializes in agricultural law or environmental law. An experienced legal professional can help you assess your legal options, such as filing a lawsuit for damages or seeking an injunction to prevent future flooding. They can also advise you on any relevant laws or regulations that may apply to your situation, such as the Federal Tort Claims Act or California environmental laws.
In our country, the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that the government cannot take private property for public use without just compensation. This is known as the “takings clause,” and it applies not only to the physical taking of property but also to damages to property and to regulations or actions that substantially interfere with the use and enjoyment of property. Thus, if a legislative act results in the loss of property value, it could be actionable.
In cases where the government’s direct action, such as the construction of a road, dam, or levee, causes flooding that damages crops, affected parties can seek compensation by filing a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) or the Tucker Act. Even the construction of large capital projects like airports or police stations that redirect runoff can cause damage that can be recovered by private parties. The law provides for monetary damages for injuries or losses caused by the negligence or wrongful actions of federal agencies or employees.
It is important to act quickly if you believe the government has caused flooding of your crops, as there may be deadlines or other requirements for filing a claim or pursuing legal action.
How Your Attorney Can Help
Your attorney can provide invaluable guidance and expertise from the moment the rains fall, and floods start. They can identify the types of evidence and facts that will be necessary to file a claim successfully, as well as make you aware of applicable timelines and statutes of limitations. In plain language, your attorney can help determine if you have a claim and how to prove it. Suffice it to say, the government has deadlines that approach quickly.
There are a variety of grant programs available from agencies such as the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). Our law firm can help determine eligibility and other legal or compliance issues that arise.
Unfortunately, there is nothing that can completely reverse the crop damage caused by floods, ice and wind. However, the good news is that attempts can be made to mitigate the damage and reverse financial losses.
How to Recover Your Crops After the Storm
Too much of a good thing can become a disastrous thing. We want to help ensure businesses and the crops that they depend on are situated to recover. Our lawyers have significant experience protecting assets and making sure tortfeasors, whether government or adjacent properties are responsible for losses they cause. We have counseled many clients on these and other important matters. We are happy to assist by answering your questions, providing legal advice, and inspecting losses. Call the trusted attorneys at Lowthorp Richards at (805) 981-8555 or fill out our online contact form. We operate primarily in the Tri-Counties area – Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo.