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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

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In 1999, Native American farmers sued, alleging that the USDA had discriminated against them with respect to farm loans and other benefits. The court certified a class, including LaBatte, a farmer and member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Tribe. Under a settlement, the government would provide a $680 million compensation fund. The Track A claims process was limited to claimants seeking standard payments of $50,000. Track A did not require proof of discrimination. Under Track B, a claimant could seek up to $250,000 by establishing that his treatment by USDA was "less favorable than that accorded a specifically identified, similarly situated white farmer(s),” which could be established “by a credible sworn statement based on personal knowledge by an individual who is not a member of the Claimant’s family.” A "Neutral" would review the record without a hearing; there was no appeal of the decision. LaBatte's Track B claim identified two individuals who had personal knowledge of the USDA’s treatment of similarly-situated white farmers. Both worked for the government's Bureau of Indian Affairs. Before LaBatte could finalize their declarations, the government directed the two not to sign the declarations. The Neutral denied LaBatte’s claim. The Claims Court affirmed the dismissal of LaBatte’s appeal, acknowledging that it had jurisdiction over breach of settlement claims, but concluding that it lacked jurisdiction over LaBatte’s case because LaBatte had, in the Track B process, waived his right to judicial review to challenge the breach of the agreement. The Federal Circuit reversed. There is no language in the agreement that suggests that breach of the agreement would not give rise to a new cause of action. View "LaBatte v. United States" on Justia Law

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Quaker Valley Farms, LLC (Quaker Valley) owned approximately 120 acres of deed-restricted farmland in Hunterdon County, New Jersey. As part of New Jersey’s Farmland Preservation Program, the State purchased an easement on the property that prohibited any activity on the property that was detrimental to soil conservation, but permitted the construction of new buildings for agricultural purposes. Quaker Valley excavated and leveled twenty acres of the farm previously used for the production of crops, to erect hoop houses (temporary greenhouses) in which it would grow flowers. In the process, Quaker Valley destroyed the land’s prime quality soil. At issue before the New Jersey Supreme Court was whether Quaker Valley’s excavation activities violated its deed of easement and the Agriculture Retention and Development Act (ARDA). The Supreme Court determined Quaker Valley had the right to erect hoop houses, but did not have the authority to permanently damage a wide swath of premier quality soil in doing so. Accordingly, the judgment of the Appellate Division, which overturned the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the State Agriculture Development Committee, was reversed. “Those who own deed-restricted farmland must have well delineated guidelines that will permit them to make informed decisions about the permissible limits of their activities.” View "New Jersey v. Quaker Valley Farms, LLC" on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal was a statutory scheme that dictates how to calculate farmers' crop insurance policies. Determining that it had jurisdiction over the appeal, the Fifth Circuit held that farmers were permitted to exclude the historical data for the 2015 crop year, even though the FCIC had not completed its data compilation. In this case, the FCIC has not provided any textual or contextual clues that would cast doubt on the plain language of the Federal Crop Insurance Act, 7 U.S.C. 1508(g)(4). Therefore, the farmers prevailed at Chevron step one. View "Adkins v. USDA" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Mary Jones appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of defendant Danita Sorenson. Sorenson hired a gardener to work on her property and the gardener hired Jones to help her. Jones was injured when she fell from a ladder while trimming a tree at least 15 feet tall. Jones sued Sorenson, claiming such work required a license but the gardener was not licensed and the gardener’s negligence caused the fall. Jones claimed that Sorenson was liable to Jones under a respondeat superior theory, because she was, as a matter of law, the employer of both the gardener and Jones. The trial court ruled that the terms “gardener” and “nurseryperson” as used in Business and Professions Code section 7026.11 were synonymous, and therefore Sorenson could avoid tort liability because a person acting as a nurseryperson may trim trees 15 feet tall or higher without a contractor’s license. The Court of Appeal disagreed, finding that “nurseryperson” refers to a licensed operator of a nursery, whereas a gardener does not require a license. This meant Sorenson, the movant on summary judgment, did not refute the claim that she was the gardener’s (and therefore Jones’s) employer, and potentially liable under a respondeat superior theory for the gardener’s alleged negligence. View "Jones v. Sorenson" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment deferring to an insurance policy interpretation made by the FCIC and a determination regarding the FCIC's authority made by the RMA. The court held that the clear language of the Federal Crop Insurance Act indicated that Congress intended the Corporation to have extensive and broad authority; given the FCIA's broad grant of authority to the Corporation, and the specific authority over the provisions of insurance and insurance contracts found in 5 U.S.C. 1505 and 1506, substantial deference was given to the FCIC's interpretation of the special provision; and, considering the plain language of the insurance contract and the deference given to the RMA in its role of supervisor of the FCIC, the RMA's determination that the FCIC was required to provide an interpretation of the special provision to the arbitrating parties was not clearly erroneous. View "Bottoms Farm Partnership v. Perdue" on Justia Law