Justia U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Agriculture Law
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A dairy farmer looking to expand the market to which he could sell butter challenged the Food and Drug Administration's ("FDA") decades-old rule barring the interstate sale of raw butter. The farmer proposed a new rule that would allow such sales, claiming that by including raw butter in the definition of "butter" under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, the FDA unlawfully changed the statutory definition of butter. The FDA rejected the farmer's proposal and the district court granted summary judgment to the FDA.The D.C. Circuit affirmed. As a preliminary matter, the court found all but one of the farmer's claims were waived on appeal. His remaining claim--that the FDA's regulation banning interstate sale of raw butter violates the FDCA’s definition of butter--failed because the FDA reasonably concluded that raw butter was too dangerous to be sold interstate. View "Mark McAfee v. FDA" on Justia Law

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Various members of the Hemp Industries Association ("Members") challenged a DEA rule emoving Epidiolex as a Schedule V controlled substance as well as the accompanying import-export controls over the substance. The DEA removed Epidiolex after the passage of the Farm Bill, which relaxed regulation of the cannabis plant.The D.C. Circuit dismissed the Members' petition, finding that they lacked standing. The Members were unable to show that they suffered any injury as a result of the DEA rule. The Members did not claim that they produce Epidiolex or that Epidiolex manufacturers compete with the Members. View "Hemp Industries Association v. DEA" on Justia Law

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Various members of the Hemp Industries Association ("Association") sought declaratory and injunctive relief following a DEA rule passed in the wake of the Farm bill. The Association specifically wanted to prevent the DEA from enforcing the CSA as it related to two byproducts of the hemp-extract production process. The district court dismissed the Association's claim, finding that it impermissibly challenged the DEA rule by failing to use the statutory review provision for rules promulgated under the Controlled Substances Act.The D.C. Circuit affirmed, finding that the district court did not err in finding that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The Association's claims seek review of issues that were outside the scheme set forth in 21 U.S.C. Sec. 877. View "Hemp Industries Association v. DEA" on Justia Law

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The State of Alaska and numerous intervenors filed suit challenging the Forest Service's issuance of the Roadless Rule, which prohibits (with some exceptions) all road construction, road reconstruction, and timber harvesting in inventoried roadless areas on National Forest System lands. After the district court dismissed the case on statute-of-limitations grounds, the DC Circuit reversed and remanded. On remand, the district court granted the summary-judgment motions of the Agriculture Department and its intervenor supporters. After briefing but before oral argument, the Agriculture Department granted Alaska's request to conduct a rulemaking to redetermine whether to exempt the Tongass National Forest from the Roadless Rule. The DC Circuit ordered the appeals stayed pending completion of the rulemaking, and on October 29, 2020, the Agriculture Department issued a final rule exempting the Tongass from the Roadless Rule.The DC Circuit concluded that Alaska's claims regarding application of the Roadless Rule to the Tongass National Forest are moot, and dismissed these claims and vacated those portions of the district court's decision regarding the Tongass. The court dismissed the remaining claims on appeal for lack of standing. View "Alaska v. United States Department of Agriculture" on Justia Law

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In 2009, Finberg became the Chief Operating Officer of Adams, a produce distributor. Grinstead was Adams’s CEO. In 2011, federal authorities investigated Adams for fraud against the Department of Defense. Finberg claims he was unaware of the scheme until later when suppliers and Adams’s CFO discussed the scheme in front of him. Finberg agreed to gradually end the scheme to avoid further detection. Adams hired a law firm to internally investigate its operations, which revealed that CEO Grinstead had engaged in extensive fraud. PNC Bank froze the business’s accounts; Adams was unable to promptly pay suppliers $10 million. Adams declared bankruptcy. Grinstead pled guilty to wire fraud, misprision of felony, and multiple failures to file tax returns. Finberg pled guilty to misprision of a felony. A disciplinary complaint was filed against Adams with the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, alleging violation of the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act, 7 U.S.C. 499b(4), by failing to promptly pay suppliers. The determination that Adams violated the Act triggered the Act’s employment bar for each person who was responsibly connected to the violation.An ALJ found that Finberg was responsibly connected. A USDA Judicial Officer affirmed, finding that Finberg exercised judgment, discretion, or control once he learned of the fraudulent scheme and failed to report. The D.C. Circuit reversed The agency lacked substantial evidence that Finberg’s activities contributed to Adam’’s violation of the Act. View "Finberg v. United States Department of Agriculture" on Justia Law

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A prospective farmer sought loans for a poultry farm to be built in Caroline County, Maryland. The lender applied for a Farm Service Agency (FSA) loan guarantee. Regulations interpreting the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321, then required FSA to conduct an environmental assessment. FSA consulted with local, state, and federal agencies; published drafts of an environmental assessment for public comment; and considered a private environmental consulting firm's recommendations. FSA issued a “finding of no significant impact” rather than a more detailed environmental impact statement. FSA provided the loan guarantee. The farm has been operating since 2016 and houses 192,000 birds. Two years after the loan was approved, FWW, an environmental group, filed suit, alleging that the failure to prepare an environmental impact statement violated NEPA, purportedly injuring thousands of FWW members, including one who lived adjoining the farm and was subjected to loud noises, bright lights, foul odors, and flies. Another FWW member, who fishes nearby, asserted concerns about pollution and aesthetic and recreational impacts. The district court granted FSA summary judgment on the merits.The D.C. Circuit vacated and remanded for dismissal. FWW lacks standing; it failed to establish that its claims are redressable by favorable judicial action. It is not “likely, as opposed to merely speculative,” that vacatur of the loan guarantee would redress its members’ alleged injuries. The loan guarantee might have been a “substantial contributing factor” to the farm’s construction, but a new status quo existed when FWW filed suit. View "Food & Water Watch v. United States Department of Agriculture" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that the government unlawfully has permitted funds for promoting the pork industry to be used instead for lobbying on the industry's behalf. The DC Circuit held that plaintiffs offered no evidence that the Board's alleged misuse of checkoff funds caused them to suffer an injury in fact, and therefore the court vacated the district court's order and remanded with instructions to dismiss the case for lack of standing. In this case, a pork farmer's declaration failed to assert a diminish return on investment, a reduced bottom line, or any similar economic injury; nor did it provide evidence that the Board's alleged misadventures have reduced the price of pork. View "Humane Society of the United States v. Perdue" on Justia Law

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Representatives of the estates of black male farmers sought to submit claims of past discrimination in agricultural credit programs to a claims-processing framework set up to resolve Hispanic and female farmers' credit discrimination claims. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the action, holding that representatives lacked standing to challenge the framework because they have no live underlying credit discrimination claims to present.In this case, representatives never submitted claims in the Black Farmers remedial process, but instead sought to present their claims in the parallel framework for claims of discrimination against women and/or Hispanic farmers. Therefore, the harm representatives asserted from being excluded was not redressable. Furthermore, representatives' claims were time barred and, even if the claims were not time barred, any credit discrimination claim a member of the Black Farmers plaintiff class may have had during the relevant period, whether or not actually pursued in the remedial process established under the Black Farmers' consent decree, was now precluded by that decree, or, for any member who opted out, time barred. View "Estate of Earnest Lee Boyland v. United States Department of Agriculture" on Justia Law

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The Project and four individual herders challenged the agencies' 364-day certification period for H-2A visas, which allowed nonimmigrants to enter the country to perform certain agricultural work. The DC Circuit held that the Project's complaint adequately raised a challenge to the Department of Homeland Security's practice of automatically extending "temporary" H-2A petitions for multiple years; the Project adequately preserved its challenge to the Department of Labor's decision in the 2015 Rule to classify herding as "temporary" employment; the 2015 Rule's minimum wage rate for herders was not arbitrary, capricious, or unsupported by the record; and the Project lacked standing to challenge the wage rates set by the already-vacated 2011 Guidance Letter. Accordingly, the court reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Hispanic Affairs Project v. Acosta" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Bread for the City's complaint for failure to state a cause of action. Bread for the City alleged that the Department spent hundreds of millions of dollars less than the law required on a program to provide food for the needy. The district court upheld the Department's interpretation of 7 U.S.C. 2036(a), a spending provision in The Emergency Food Assistance Program, as modified by the Agriculture Act of 2014, Pub. L. No. 113-79, 4027(a), 128 Stat. 649, 812. The court held that the available evidence showed that those intimately involved in determining the spending levels of the Program did not support Bread for the City's version of section 2036(a). View "Bread for the City v. USDA" on Justia Law

Posted in: Agriculture Law