Midwest ranchers have never been enamored with environmental regulators, but they really began to complain after learning that federal inspectors were flying over their land to look for problems.

The Environmental Protection Agency flies over power plants and other facilities nationwide to identify potential air, water and land pollution. It began using aerial surveillance in the Midwest in 2010 to check farms for violations of federal clean water regulations.

Ranchers who object to the program said they’re not trying to hide anything. It’s the quiet approach the EPA took with the program designed to spot illegal disposal of animal waste that they find upsetting. Most were not even aware of the flyovers until regional EPA officials mentioned it at a meeting three months ago.

“For me, it just creeps into the ‘Big Brother is watching you’ area, to where the government just feels like it’s getting more and more intrusive,” said Buck Wehrbein, who manages a cattle feeding operation in Mead, Neb., about 30 miles west of Omaha.