Justia Agriculture Law Opinion Summaries

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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 On February 27, 2019, the Plant Board promulgated a new rule that repealed the April 15 cutoff date and took effect beginning March 9, 2019.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

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to vacate an arbitration award that the Farm won against a private insurance company that sold federal crop insurance policies to the Farm. The court held that, despite the strong presumption in favor of confirming arbitration awards pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), the insurance company met its heavy burden to prove that the arbitrator exceeded her powers by awarding extra-contractual damages, contrary to both the policy and binding authority from the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC). In this case, the arbitrator exceeded her powers by both interpreting the policy herself without obtaining an FCIC interpretation for the disputed policy provisions, and awarding extra-contractual damages, which the FCIC has conclusively stated in multiple Final Agency Determinations could not be awarded in arbitration and can only be sought through judicial review. View "Williamson Farm v. Diversified Crop Insurance Services" on Justia Law

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In 2009, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) entered into a “Cooperative Agreement” with St. Bernard Parish under the Federal Grant and Cooperative Agreement Act, 31 U.S.C. 6301–08. Under the Emergency Watershed Protection Program, NRCS was “authorized to assist [St. Bernard] in relieving hazards created by natural disasters that cause a sudden impairment of a watershed.” NRCS agreed to “provide 100 percent ($4,318,509.05) of the actual costs of the emergency watershed protection measures,” and to reimburse the Parish. St. Bernard contracted with Omni for removing sediment in Bayou Terre Aux Boeufs for $4,290,300.00, predicated on the removal of an estimated 119,580 cubic yards of sediment. Omni completed the project. Despite having removed only 49,888.69 cubic yards of sediment, Omni billed $4,642,580.58. NRCS determined that it would reimburse St. Bernard only $2,849,305.60. Omni and St. Bernard executed a change order that adjusted the contract price to $3,243,996.37. St. Bernard paid Omni then sought reimbursement from NRCS. NRCS reimbursed $355,866.21 less than St. Bernard claims it is due. The Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the Parish’s lawsuit, filed under the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. 1491(a)(1), for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. In the Federal Crop Insurance Reform and Department of Agriculture Reorganization Act of 1994, 7 U.S.C. 6991–99, Congress created a detailed, comprehensive scheme providing private parties with the right of administrative review of adverse decisions by particular agencies within the Department of Agriculture, including NRCS. View "St. Bernard Parish Government v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs challenged a Monterey County ordinance limiting to four the number of roosters that can be kept on a property without a permit. A permit application must include a plan describing the “method and frequency of manure and other solid waste removal,” and “such other information that the Animal Control Officer may deem necessary.” A permit cannot be issued to anyone who has a criminal conviction for illegal cockfighting or other crime of animal cruelty. The ordinance includes standards, such as maintaining structurally sound pens that protect roosters from cold and are properly cleaned and ventilated and includes exemptions for poultry operations; members of a recognized organization that promotes the breeding of poultry for show or sale; minors who keep roosters for an educational purpose; and minors who keep roosters for a Future Farmers of America project or 4-H project. The court of appeal upheld the ordinance, rejecting arguments that it takes property without compensation in violation of the Fifth Amendment; infringes on Congress’ authority to regulate interstate commerce; violates the Equal Protection Clause; is a prohibited bill of attainder; and violates the rights to privacy and to possess property guaranteed by the California Constitution. View "Perez v. County of Monterey" on Justia Law

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Until recently, Sexing Tech held a monopoly on the market for sexed cattle semen in the United States. Sperm‐sorting technology separates bull semen into X‐chromosome bearing and Y‐chromosome bearing sperm cells; the resulting “sexed semen” is used to inseminate cows artificially so that dairy farmers can breed only milk‐producing cows. ABS, a bull‐stud operation, sued, alleging that Sexing Tech had unlawfully monopolized the domestic sexed‐semen market in violation of section 2 of the Sherman Act by using its market power to impose coercive contract terms. ABS sought a declaratory judgment proclaiming those contracts invalid, to permit its own entry into that market. Sexing Tech counterclaimed that ABS infringed its patents and breached the contract by misappropriating trade secrets in developing ABS’s competing technology. Three claims went to trial: ABS’s antitrust claim and Sexing Tech’s patent infringement and breach of contract counterclaims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court, holding that ABS violated a confidentiality agreement it had with Sexing Tech and that Sexing Tech’s patent was not invalid on obviousness grounds. The jury’s assessments of two of the three patent claims still at issue cannot be reconciled under the rules governing dependent claims and enablement, and so a new trial is necessary on them. View "ABS Global, Inc. v. Inguran, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s order granting a directed verdict in favor of Defendant on Plaintiff’s statutory strict liability claim under Neb. Rev. Stat. 54-601(1), holding that allegations that a ranch employee was injured as a result of the ranch’s herding dog nipping at a cow, causing the cow to charge into the employee, fall outside the strict liability statute. In granting a directed verdict for Defendant, the district court concluded that the evidence presented did not fall within the purview of strict liability under Neb. Rev. Stat. 54-601. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that strict liability under section 54-601(1) does not encompass the act of a herding dog nipping at the heels of a cow, causing the cow to move forward and collide with a ranch employee and inflict bodily hurt on the employee. View "Smith v. Meyring Cattle Co., LLC" on Justia Law

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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