Ag Today December 27, 2017

Farmer who faced $2.8 million fine over plowing his field says case nearly bankrupted him

, Record SearchlightPublished 7:00 a.m. PT Dec. 26, 2017 | Updated 4:46 p.m. PT Dec. 26, 2017

It’s been six years since John Duarte set out to grow wheat on 500 acres south of Red Bluff.

But no crop has been harvested since he planted wheat in 2012. Only weeds grow on the 450-acre plot surrounded by a barbed wire fence and a dusty dirt road south of Red Bluff.

While the area looks inconspicuous, for a few months last summer it drew nationwide attention when it became the focal point of a courtroom battle between Duarte and government officials who sought to fine him $2.8 million for plowing his field.

Duarte, who owns Duarte Nursery near Modesto, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office eventually settled the case before it went to trial on the fine amount.

MORE: Farmer faces $2.8 million fine after plowing field

But Duarte said four months after agreeing to spend $1.1 million on restoration and fines in the case, nothing has changed. In addition to restoration work at the site, he has also agreed to raise cattle on the property for two years, he said.

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