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Mittelstadt’s Richland County, Wisconsin land was enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), administered by the Department of Agriculture (USDA), from 1987-2006. CRP participants agree to remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production in return for annual rental payments from the USDA. In 2006, the agency denied Mittelstadt’s application to re-enroll. After exhausting his administrative appeals, he sued under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 701, and asserting a breach of contract. The district court entered judgment in favor of the agency. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Under the regulations governing the CRP, the USDA has broad discretion to evaluate offers of enrollment in the program on a competitive basis by considering the environmental benefits of a producer’s land relative to its costs. Given the agency’s wide latitude, the Farm Services Agency did not abuse its discretion when it denied re-enrollment of Mittelstadt’s land under a new definition of “mixed hardwoods.” Because he never entered a new contract with the agency, there was no breach of contract. View "Mittelstadt 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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Plaintiffs brought an adversary proceeding in bankruptcy court, alleging that defendants wrongfully failed to pay debtor for produce held in trust for plaintiffs, in violation of the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act. The Second Circuit agreed with the bankruptcy judge and district court and affirmed summary judgment for plaintiffs, but held that defendants should receive a pro rata share of assets of the trust established under the Act. Because assets subject to the Act are held in a ʺfloatingʺ trust for the benefit of unpaid produce suppliers and never become part of a bankruptcy estate, when a purchaser of produce files for bankruptcy under Chapter 7, a creditor covered by the Actʹs provisions is entitled to a pro rata share of trust assets, but not to a complete offset of mutual debts between it and the bankrupt. In this case, although defendants did not file a proof of claim after the district court issued a claims process order under the Act, they preserved their claims by providing statutorily required notice to debtor in connection with each pre‐bankruptcy sale of fresh produce; filed a proof of claim with the bankruptcy court before the district court had issued the claims process order; and reasonably, although mistakenly, thought that they could vindicate their rights as creditors using a bankruptcy offset. View "The PACA Trust Creditors v. Genecco Produce Inc." on Justia Law

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Caltec challenged the Department's final administrative decision determining that three of Caltec's products were pesticides under the Food and Agricultural Code. The products at issue were Greenfeed 27-0-0, Terra Treat, and Kelpak. The Court of Appeal affirmed and held that substantial evidence supported the finding that Greenfeed 27-0-0, a commercial fertilizer, is also a spray adjuvant; that Terra Treat is a spray adjuvant, and that Kelpak is a plant growth regulator. The court also held that the California Department of Food and Agriculture's prior registration of Terra Treat as an "auxiliary soil and plant substance" and Kelpak as an "organic input material" did not preclude the Department from determining those products were pesticides. Finally, any procedural error was not prejudicial and Caltec failed to demonstrate the hearing officer's treatment of the evidence violated an applicable rule of law. View "Caltec AG v. Department of Pesticide Regulation" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit denied a petition for review of the USDA's 2017 orders withdrawing an interim final rule and two proposed regulations promulgated under the Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA). The court held that the USDA actions were not arbitrary nor capricious where the USDA provided legitimate regulatory and substantive concerns. In this case, the USDA explained that it was withdrawing the interim final rule and taking no further action on the proposed regulations because the proposed regulatory change of course would generate protracted litigation, adopt vague and ambiguous terms, and might prevent innovation and foster vertical integration that would hinder new market entrants. The court held that the USDA did not unlawfully withhold action by failing to comply with an absolute congressional deadline in Section 11006 of the 2008 Farm Bill. View "Organization for Competitive Markets v. U.S. Department of Agriculture" on Justia Law

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Winter wheat farmers could purchase insurance to protect against below-average harvests. The policies at issue here offered yield protection. On July 1, 2014, the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (“FCIC”) published an interim rule to implement the 2014 Farm Bill. In that interim rule, the FCIC warned that the APH yield exclusion “may not be implemented upon publication” because “[p]roduction data availability and intensive data analysis may limit FCIC’s ability to authorize exclusions of yields for all APH crops in all counties.” Therefore, the FCIC amended the Common Crop Insurance Policy (CCIP) Basic Provisions (the actual terms of the insurance policy offered for sale) “to allow the actuarial documents to specify when insureds may elect to exclude any recorded or appraised yield.” The revised CCIP Basic Provisions stated that farmers “may elect” the APH yield exclusion “[i]f provided in the actuarial documents.” The deadline for winter wheat farmers to purchase insurance for the 2015 crop year was September 30, 2014. When Plaintiffs purchased insurance, they elected to use the APH yield exclusion. But in a letter dated October 31, 2014, the USDA notified insurance providers that the APH Yield Exclusion would not be available for winter wheat for the 2015 crop year. The letter stated that insurance providers could respond to farmers’ elections by pointing them to the USDA’s “actuarial documents,” which did not yet “reflect that such an election is available.” Plaintiffs sought review of this denial through the USDA’s administrative appeals process. An administrative judge determined that she lacked jurisdiction over Plaintiffs’ challenge because the October 2014 letter to insurance providers was not an adverse agency decision. Plaintiffs then appealed to the Director of the National Appeals Division. The Director found that the October 2014 letter was an adverse agency decision, but affirmed the FCIC’s decision not to make the APH yield exclusion available to winter wheat farmers for the 2015 crop year. Plaintiffs appealed the Director’s decision to the United States District Court for the District of Colorado. The district court reversed the Director’s decision and remanded the case to the FCIC with instructions to retroactively apply the APH yield exclusion to Plaintiffs’ 2015 crop year insurance policies, reasoning the applicable statute unambiguously made the APH yield exclusion available to all farmers on the day the 2014 Farm Bill was enacted. Finding no reversible error in the district court’s judgment, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Ausmus v. Perdue" on Justia Law

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Petitioner sought relief from the district court's gag order imposing stringent restrictions on participants and potential participants in a series of nuisance suits brought against the hog industry in North Carolina. Determining that a mandamus petition was the appropriate mechanism for challenging the gag order and that the mandamus petition was not moot, the Fourth Circuit held that petitioner met its burden of showing a clear and indisputable right to the requested relief. Applying strict scrutiny, the court held that the gag order breached basic First Amendment principles in both meaningful and material ways. In this case, the gag order harmed petitioner, farmers, and plaintiffs. Accordingly, the court vacated the gag order and allowed the parties to begin anew under the guidelines the court set forth. View "In re: Murphy-Brown, LLC" on Justia Law

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Minerva, an Ohio‐based, family‐owned dairy company, produces Amish‐style butters in small, slow‐churned batches using fresh milk supplied by pasture‐raised cows. Minerva challenged Wisconsin’s butter‐grading requirement under the Due Process Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, and the dormant Commerce Clause. Wisconsin’s law applies to butter manufactured in‐state and out‐of‐state and provides that butter may be graded by either a Wisconsin‐licensed butter grader or by the USDA. Wisconsin’s standards are materially identical to the USDA’s standards. The district court rejected the challenges on summary judgment, holding that the statute is rationally related to Wisconsin’s legitimate interest in consumer protection and does not discriminate against out‐of‐state businesses. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Consumer protection is a legitimate state interest; the butter‐grading requirement is rationally related to the state’s legitimate interest in “protect[ing] the integrity of interstate products so as not to depress the demand for goods that must travel across state lines.” The state presented some evidence that the statute effectively conveys consumer preferences. The statute does not violate the Equal Protection Clause simply because Wisconsin failed to implement mandatory grading for other commodities. Wisconsin’s butter‐grading law confers a competitive advantage on prospective butter-graders who live closer to testing locations but this geographical fact of life does not constitute discrimination against out‐of‐state applicants. View "Minerva Dairy, Inc. v. Harsdorf" on Justia Law

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Jacob Greer, doing business as Greer Farm, appealed from a judgment dismissing his claims against Global Industries, Inc. and Nebraska Engineering Co. ("NECO"), an unincorporated division of Global Industries (collectively "Global"). Greer argued the district court erred in granting summary judgment dismissal of his claims against Global because there were genuine issues of material fact about whether Advanced Ag Construction Incorporation, also a party to this action, was Global's agent when Advanced Ag sold a grain dryer to Greer. The North Dakota Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, concluding certification under N.D.R.Civ.P. 54(b) was improvidently granted. View "Greer v. Global Industries" 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