Articles Posted in Agriculture Law

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The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. 9603, and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 (EPCRA), 42 U.S.C. 11004, require parties to notify authorities when large quantities of hazardous materials are released into the environment. In 2008, the EPA issued a final rule that generally exempts farms from CERCLA and EPCRA reporting requirements for air released from animal waste. The EPA reasoned that the reports were unnecessary because, in most cases, federal response was impractical and unlikely. The court concluded that petitioners have informational standing and proceeded to the merits. The court granted the petition for review and vacated the Final Rule, concluding that the EPA's action cannot be justified either as a reasonable interpretation of any statutory ambiguity or implementation of a de minimis exception. The Pork Producers' challenge was moot and the court dismissed their petition. View "Waterkeeper Alliance v. EPA" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, claiming that new regulations promulgated by the USDA may result in an increase in foodborne illness from contaminated poultry. The district court concluded that plaintiffs failed to demonstrate an injury in fact and dismissed their claims for lack of standing. The court concluded that standing should have been evaluated under the motion to dismiss standard pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), and the district court erred by using the heightened standard for evaluating a motion for summary judgment. On the merits, the court concluded that, because plaintiffs have failed to plausibly allege that the NPIS substantially increases the risk of producing unwholesome, adulterated poultry compared to the existing inspection systems, they do not have standing. Further, plaintiffs' self-inflicted injuries are not fairly traceable to the NPIS, and their subjective fear does not give rise to standing. The court also concluded that FWW has not alleged an injury to its interest to give rise to organizational standing. Because plaintiffs have failed to establish that they will likely suffer a substantive injury, their claimed procedural injury necessarily fails. Accordingly, the court held that plaintiffs failed to show any cognizable injury sufficient to establish standing. The court affirmed the judgment. View "Food & Water Watch, Inc. v. Vilsack" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, a pork producer and two animal welfare organizations who count pork producers among their members, filed suit claiming that the National Pork Board has misappropriated millions of dollars from a fund for pork promotion into which pork producers are required to pay. The district court dismissed the suit for lack of standing. The court concluded that this case involves a concrete and particularized harm caused by an agency’s failure to confer a direct economic benefit on a statutory beneficiary; the court rejected the government’s argument that plaintiffs have failed to exhaust their administrative remedies; and the Pork Act’s, 7 U.S.C. 48019b)(1), provision for administrative review would not offer plaintiffs adequate relief, and therefore they were not required to pursue it. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Humane Society v. Vilsack" on Justia Law

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PETA filed suit against the USDA, arguing that the USDA's failure to craft avian-specific animal welfare regulations pursuant to the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), 7 U.S.C. 2131 et seq., violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 706(1). The district court granted the USDA's motion to dismiss, concluding that the USDA’s enforcement decisions are committed by law to its discretion. As a preliminary matter, the court concluded that PETA has organizational standing. On the merits, the court concluded that, even if the USDA has adopted an interim policy of non-enforcement pending the adoption of bird-specific regulations, as PETA alleges, nothing in the AWA requires the USDA to apply the general animal welfare standards to birds before it has promulgated more appropriate bird-specific regulations. In this case, the USDA has not failed to take action where, even assuming that the USDA is compelled by law to act, the court has no power to say that it must do so before finalizing its bird-specific regulations, at least in light of PETA’s abandonment of its argument that the USDA “unreasonably delayed” enforcement. Further, the AWA's mandatory licensure requirement is not directed to the USDA. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "PETA v. USDA" on Justia Law

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Maurice McGinnis sought a loan through federal farm credit programs and alleges that he was denied access to such programs by the Department because of his race. This appeal concerns McGinnis' participation in a claims process established by a class action settlement agreement to resolve his and other farmers' discrimination claims. The court concluded that Paragraph 13 of the Consent Decree empowers the District Court to correct an error by the facilitator in transmitting a claim to the wrong track. If it is true that McGinnis selected Track B and the facilitator nevertheless sent his claim package to the adjudicator, the district court did no more than enforce the parties' agreement. The court affirmed the district court's conclusion that it could review the facilitator's claim processing and vacate the adjudicator's determination. The court concluded that McGinnis' request to change his claim to Track B was sufficiently close in time to his submission of the claim package, and the language of the Consent Decree defining what constitutes a "completed claim package" is sufficiently ambiguous, to justify the district court in granting his petition. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Pigford v. Vilsack" on Justia Law

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Prime Time filed suit contending that USDA's method of calculating assessments for cigars violated the Fair and Equitable Tobacco Reform Act (FETRA), 7 U.S.C. 518d. Applying Chevron deference, the court concluded that USDA's decision to read the word "volume" in subsection (e) as Congress used it in subsection (e) is entirely reasonable and fully implements subsection (e)'s "pro rata basis" requirement; nor is USDA's interpretation of the statutory term "share of gross domestic volume" "internally inconsistent"; although subsection (e) may have little independent operative effect, USDA's interpretation of subsection (e) as setting forth a general requirement was perfectly reasonable; and the court rejected Prime Time's argument that its interpretation gives more effect to subsection (e)'s pro rata basis limitation than does USDA's. Accordingly, the court concluded that USDA's approach represented a reasonable interpretation of the Act.View "Prime Time Int'l Co. v. AGRI, et al." on Justia Law

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AMI filed suit challenging the 2013 rule adopted by AMS, a branch of the Department of Agriculture, that modified its prior rule implementing Congress's requirements of country-of-origin labeling (COOL), 7 U.S.C. 1638a. The 2013 rule requires retailers of "muscle cuts" of meat to list the countries of origin and production steps occurring in each country. AMS's previous rule only required a list of the countries of origin preceded by the phrase "Product of." The 2013 rule also eliminated the prior rule's allowance of commingling. AMI argued that compulsion to make the disclosures required by the 2013 rule exceeded the authority granted by the COOL statute and violated its First Amendment rights. The court concluded that AMI was unlikely to succeed on the merits of its claims and that any error in the district court's balancing of the other factors governing the issuance of a preliminary injunction could not on these facts outweigh the likely outcome on the merits. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying AMI's motion for a preliminary injunction halting enforcement of the 2013 rule. View "American Meat Institute, et al. v. AGRI, et al." on Justia Law

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Appellants, almond producers, claimed that the Secretary of Agriculture, seeking to prevent the spread of salmonella, exceeded his authority in requiring California almonds sold domestically to be treated with heat or chemicals. The district court granted summary judgment for the Secretary. The court affirmed, finding that appellants have waived their claims by failing to raise them during the rulemaking process. View "Koretoff, et al v. Vilsack" on Justia Law

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The National Chicken Council, National Meat Association, and National Turkey Federation petitioned for review of EPA's interpretation of a provision in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The EPA interpreted the provision to mean that certain ethanol plants fired with natural gas and/or biomass were deemed to be in compliance with a reduction requirement indefinitely rather than for a certain period. Petitioners argued that by permitting qualifying ethanol plants to generate Renewable Identification Numberss indefinitely without having to ensure their ethanol met the emissions-reduction requirement, the ethanol plants would produce more ethanol, which would lead to an increase in the demand for corn, which would lead to an increase in the price of corn. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed Petitioner's petition for review for lack of standing, as Petitioners failed to show that a favorable ruling would redress their claimed injuries. View "Nat'l Chicken Council v. EPA " on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, owners of two dairy operations, appealed the dismissal of their constitutional challenges to two provisions of the Milk Regulatory Equity Act of 2005 (MREA), 7 U.S.C. 608c. Plaintiffs alleged that the provisions, which subjected certain large producer-handlers of milk to contribution requirements applicable to all milk handlers, constituted a bill of attainder and violated the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses. Because the court found that the MREA did not apply with specificity to affected persons, the court need not address whether it satisfied either of the remaining elements of a bill of attainder. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' claim. In regards to plaintiffs' remaining arguments, the court held that mere disparity of treatment was not sufficient to state an equal protection violation. The court also found that the government provided an explanation that was not only rational on its face but also had been consistently recognized by the courts as legitimate. Further, plaintiffs failed to plead the threshold requirement of a due process claim: that the government had interfered with a cognizable liberty or property interest. Finally, the court found that the district court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to allow plaintiffs to file a supplemental complaint. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Hettinga v. United States" on Justia Law