Justia Agriculture Law Opinion Summaries

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In the 1990s, Boucher cut down nine trees on his family farm in Indiana. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) claimed that the tree removal converted several acres of wetlands into croplands, rendering the Bouchers’ entire farm ineligible for USDA benefits that would otherwise be available under the “Swampbuster” provisions in the Food Security Act of 1985, 16 U.S.C. 3801, 3821–24. The Seventh Circuit reversed the district court. The USDA repeatedly failed to follow applicable law and agency standards. It disregarded compelling evidence showing that the acreage in question never qualified as wetlands that could have been converted illegally into croplands and has shifted its explanations for treating the acreage as converted wetlands, so its actions qualify as arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion. The agency experts did not attribute the alteration of hydrology to the removal of the nine trees; the agency presented no evidence that the tree removal altered the wetland hydrology. The USDA failed to engage meaningfully with this point, ignoring a crucial factor under the agency’s interpretation of its regulation. View "Boucher v. United States Department of Agriculture" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's order granting summary judgment to the Commissioner, in an action brought by Farm Wineries seeking a declaration that the Minnesota Farm Wineries Act's in-state requirements violates the dormant Commerce Clause. The court held that the Farm Wineries had Article III standing, because they established an injury in fact by alleging that they were presently injured by the Act because they cannot plan for and expand their businesses. Furthermore, the Farm Wineries' injuries were fairly traceable to the in-state requirement, because the Commissioner has the authority to enforce the Act against the Farm Wineries. Finally, Farm Wineries' injuries can be redressed by a declaratory judgment. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Alexis Bailly Vineyard, Inc. v. Harrington" on Justia Law

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The Moodys leased Pine Ridge Indian Reservation parcels for agriculture. The government has a trust responsibility for Indian agricultural lands, 25 U.S.C. 3701(2). The Secretary of the Interior is authorized to participate in the management of such lands, with the participation of the beneficial owners and has delegated some responsibilities to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). BIA regulations generally allow Indian landowners to enter into agricultural leases with BIA approval. Each Moody lease defined “the Indian or Indians” as the “LESSOR.” The Claims Court concluded that the Oglala Sioux Tribe signed the leases. Other lease provisions distinguished between the lease parties and the Secretary of the Interior/United States. Issues arose in 2012. The BIA sent letters canceling the leases, noting that the Moodys could appeal the decision to the Regional Director. Within the 30-day appeal period, the Moodys returned with a cashier’s check in the proper amount, which the BIA accepted. The BIA informed the Moodys that they need not appeal, could continue farming, and did not require written confirmation. Subsequently, the Moodys received trespass notices and were instructed to vacate, which they did. The Moodys did not appeal within the BIA but sued the government. The Federal Circuit affirmed the Claims Court’s dismissal of the written contract claims for lack of jurisdiction because the government was not a party to the leases, for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted because the Moodys did not have implied-in-fact contracts with the government, and for failure to raise a cognizable takings claim because their claim was based on the government’s alleged violation of applicable regulations. View "Moody v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed as moot a direct appeal challenging the circuit court's order declaring the Arkansas State Plant Board's dicamba cutoff rule as void and dismissed in part and reversed in part the cross appeal challenging the same order dismissing with prejudice certain farmers' complaint on the basis of the Board's sovereign immunity, holding that the Farmers' constitutional claims were not subject to the sovereign immunity defense. In 2017, the Board voted to ban the in-crop use of dicamba-based herbicides after April 15, 2018. The Farmers sought declaratory and injunctive relief alleging that the process by which Board members were appointed was unconstitutional. Thereafter, the new rule took effect, and the Board filed a motion to dismiss the Farmers' complaint. The circuit court granted the Board's motion to dismiss on the basis of sovereign immunity. However, the court determined that the Board's sovereign immunity violated the Farmers' due process rights, thus holding that the Board's rule was void ab initio and null and void as to the Farmers. The Supreme Court held (1) the Board's appeal was of the portion of the circuit court's order declaring the Board's rule establishing the cutoff date for the application of dicamba herbicides was moot; but (2) the Farmers' constitutional claims could proceed. View "Arkansas State Plant Board v. McCarty" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court mooted in part and reversed and remanded in part the decision of the circuit court dismissing Monsanto Company's amended complaint against the Arkansas State Plant Board and its members (collectively, the Plant Board) on the basis of sovereign immunity, holding that portions of this matter were moot and, as to the remainder, sovereign immunity was inapplicable. In 2017, the Plant Board promulgated a rule that would prohibit in-crop use of dicamba herbicides during the 2018 growing season. Monsanto filed a complaint setting forth seven alleged claims against the Plant Board. Each of Monsanto's claims sought injunctive or declaratory relief for alleged illegal or unconstitutional activity by the Plant Board and did not seek an award of monetary damages in any respect. The circuit court granted the Plant Board's motion to dismiss based on sovereign immunity. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the portions of the complaint that relate exclusively to the 2016 and 2017 promulgations were moot because the Plant Board has since promulgated a new set of regulations on pesticide use; and (2) Monsanto's claims were sufficiently developed as to properly allege ultra vires conduct, and under the circumstances, the Plant Board must address the merits of Monsanto's claims. View "Montsanto Co. v. Arkansas State Plant Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed as moot the appeal brought by Appellants, the Arkansas State Plant Board and its director, challenging the circuit court's temporary restraining order (TRO) that enjoined the Plant Board from enforcing its agency rule limiting the use of dicamba herbicides after April 15, 2018, holding that because Appellants had since repealed and replaced this rule, the appeal was moot. While Appellants' appeal was pending, the Plant Board repealed and replaced the rule. The Supreme Court held that because the judgment on this appeal would have no practical legal effect on the TRO's enforceability, this interlocutory appeal is dismissed as moot. View "Arkansas State Plant Board v. Stephens" on Justia Law

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In this companion case to Arkansas State Plant Board v. Bell, __ S.W.3d __, which the Court handed down on May 23, 2019, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal from the circuit court's temporary restraining order (TRO) that enjoined the Arkansas State Plant Board and its officers and members (collectively, the Plant Board) from enforcing its agency rule limiting the use of dicamba herbicides after April 15, 2018, holding that because the Plant Board had since repealed and replaced the rule and the TRO had expired by operation of law, the appeal was moot. View "Arkansas State Plant Board v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed as moot Appellants' appeal of the circuit court's temporary restraining order (TRO) that enjoined the Arkansas State Plant Board from enforcing its agency rule limiting the use of dicamba herbicides after April 16, 2018, holding that the appeal was moot. On April 16, 2018, thirty-seven Arkansas farmers who intended to use dicaamba herbicides in 2018 (Appellees), filed a complaint against the Plant Board seeking a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief. The circuit court granted a TRO and enjoined the Plant Board from enforcing its April 15 cutoff date. The Plant Board appealed. On February 27, 2019, the Plant Board promulgated a new rule that repealed the April 15 cutoff date and took effect beginning March 9, 2019. The Supreme Court dismissed the interlocutory appeal as moot, holding that judgment on this appeal would have no practical effect upon the TRO's enforceability. View "Arkansas State Plant Board v. Bell" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of an appeal by Growers against members of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board who promulgated a regulation allowing union organizers access to agricultural employees at employer worksites under specific circumstances. Growers sought declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that the access regulation, as applied to them, was unconstitutional. The panel held that the access regulation as applied to the Growers did not amount to a per se physical taking of their property in violation of the Fifth Amendment. In this case, the Growers did not suffer a permanent physical invasion that would constitute a per se taking. The panel also held that the Growers have not plausibly alleged that the access regulation effects a seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. View "Cedar Point Nursery v. Shiroma" on Justia Law

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Burnette handles canned tart cherries. Burnette’s canned product has a shelf life of about one year. Many other cherry handlers freeze their cherries for longer shelf life. Because of the shelf-life disparity, Burnette is at a disadvantage when the USDA Cherry Industry Administrative Board caps cherry sales. Burnette filed a petition with the USDA, seeking a declaration that CherrCo, an organization that markets for its members and sets minimum prices for tart cherry products, was a “sales constituency.” Many Board members were affiliated with CherrCo; some were from the same district. Under 7 C.F.R. 930.20(g), Board members come from nine districts. In a district with multiple Board members, only one member may be from a given sales constituency. A judicial officer affirmed an ALJ’s determination that CherrCo was not a “sales constituency.” The district court reversed, reasoning that CherrCo’s members sign agreements that allow it to process, handle, pack, store, dry, manufacture, and sell its members’ cherries. CherrCo is listed as the seller for all orders. The Sixth Circuit reversed. A “sales constituency” is: [A] common marketing organization or brokerage firm or individual representing a group of handlers and growers. An organization which receives consignments of cherries and does not direct where the consigned cherries are sold is not a sales constituency. There was substantial evidence to support the administrative finding that CherrCo receives consignments of cherries but does not direct where the consigned cherries are sold. View "Burnette Foods, Inc. v. United States Department of Agriculture" on Justia Law