Justia U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Agriculture Law
PETA v. USDA
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
Pigford v. Vilsack
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
Prime Time Int’l Co. v. AGRI, et al.
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
American Meat Institute, et al. v. AGRI, et al.
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
Koretoff, et al v. Vilsack
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
Nat’l Chicken Council v. EPA
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
Hettinga v. United States
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
McKesson Corp., et al. v. Islamic Republic of Iran
McKesson, a United States company, claimed that after the Islamic Revolution, the government of Iran expropriated McKesson's interest in an Iranian dairy (Pak Dairy) and withheld its dividend payments. McKesson filed its complaint in 1982, the case reached the court on five prior occasions, and was remanded by the court for numerous trials by the district court. At issue was whether the court had jurisdiction over McKesson's claim and whether any recognized body of law provided McKesson with a private right of action against Iran. The court affirmed the district court's holding that the act of state doctrine did not apply in this case. While the court reversed the district court's holding that McKesson could base its claim on customary international law, the court affirmed the district court's alternative holding that the Treaty of Amity, construed as Iranian law, provided McKesson with a private right of action, and the court further affirmed the district court's finding that Iran was liable for the expropriation of McKesson's equity interest in Pak Dairy and the withholding of McKesson's dividend payments. Finally, the court reversed the district court's award of compound interest and remanded for calculation of an award consisting of the value of McKesson's expropriated property and withheld dividends plus simple interest. View "McKesson Corp., et al. v. Islamic Republic of Iran" on Justia Law
Cheryl Taylor, et al v. US Department of Agriculture, et al
Petitioners sought administrative review of the Chief of the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act ("PACA"), 7 U.S.C. 499, and Vegetable Division of the Agricultural Marketing Service's ("Judicial Officer") determination that petitioners, who were officers of national produce wholesalers, Fresh America, had been responsibly connected to Fresh America during the violations period at issue and were subject to the statute's employment restrictions. At issue was whether petitioners were merely nominal officers to Fresh America and whether Fresh America was the alter ego of its chairman of the board. The court granted the petition for review where the Judicial Officer's decision was devoid of any analysis of the actual power exercised by petitioners at Fresh America. The court also held that Fresh America was dominated by the board and its chairman, not just by the chairman.