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A Correction, a Clarification, and a Tip of the Hat to John Duarte

January 30, 2018

A news item about the settlement of John Duarte’s long-running legal battle with the Army Corp of Engineers that appeared on page 10 in the print edition of the October 2017 Wine Business Monthly contained an inaccuracy. The article reported that the case began “when a representative of the Army Corps of Engineers found him tilling land to depths of 5 to 6 feet.” The error here lies in the use of the word “found” – our editors should have used another word, such as “accused.” We also could have provided more context. While the news item still appears in our archives via the digital edition, that sentence has been deleted.

Back in the winter of 2012, when Duarte was plowing a field to plant wheat, a project manager from the local office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, responsible for enforcing the Clean Water Act, was driving by as Duarte's field was being plowed. He decided that the land was being tilled too deeply and claimed to have observed "deep ripping," which is not allowed because it can destroy wetlands. The Corps then sent Duarte a cease-and-desist letter.

Duarte always contended the project manager was mistaken, and that rather than admit the mistake, the government had doubled down, leading to millions of dollars in legal costs. As reported by Wine Industry Insight, the contention “was disputed by Duarte, his contractor, expert witnesses and even by a photo on the cover of one of the government expert witness reports."

What makes the error in the October issue especially frustrating is that John Duarte was selected as one of the industry’s Top 50 Leaders in the December 2017 Wine Business Monthly because he stood up to the Army Corp of Engineers in this case, a case that many saw as an example of government overreach. Duarte was recognized, not only for his role as one of the leading providers of planting material/grapevines, but for standing up for farmer’s rights by holding firm in the legal case.

We regret the error.

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