Justia U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Agriculture Law

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Plaintiffs submitted rulemaking petitions to the FDA, FTC, AMS, and FSIS, requesting that each agency promulgate regulations that would require all egg cartons to identify the conditions in which the egglaying hens were kept during production. Plaintiffs subsequently filed suit claiming that each agency had acted arbitrarily and capriciously in dismissing their rulemaking petitions. The district court granted summary judgment to defendants. The court concluded that the FSIS did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in denying plaintiffs' rulemaking petition where plaintiffs' proposed labeling regulations concern only shell eggs and thus fall outside of the FSIS's labeling jurisdiction under the Egg Products Inspection Act (EPIA), 21 U.S.C. 1031–56; the AMS also did not act arbitrarily or capriciously because the agency correctly concluded that it lacks the authority to promulgate mandatory labeling requirements for shell eggs; the FTC did not act arbitrarily or capriciously where the agency could not conclude that the potentially unfair or deceptive labeling practices plaintiffs challenge were "prevalent" as that term was used in the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTCA), 15 U.S.C. 41-58, and the agency reasonably denied the petition based on its discretion to combat any potentially misleading egg labeling through ad hoc enforcement proceedings; and the FDA's explanation for denying plaintiffs' petition barely met its low burden of demonstrating that it considered the potential problem and providing a reasonable explanation of its decision. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Compassion Over Killing v. FDA" on Justia Law

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Growers sold their perishable agricultural products on credit to a distributor, Tanimura, which made Tanimura trustee over a Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA), 7 U.S.C. 499a-499t, trust holding the perishable products and any resulting proceeds for the Growers as PACA-trust beneficiaries. Tanimura then sold the products on credit to third parties and transferred its own resulting accounts receivable to Agricap through a Factoring Agreement or sale of accounts. In this suit against Agricap, Growers alleged that the Factoring Agreement was merely a secured lending arrangement structured to look like a sale but transferring no substantial risk of nonpayment on the accounts; the accounts receivable and proceeds remained trust property under PACA; because the accounts receivable remained trust property, Tanimura breached the PACA trust and Agricap was complicit in the breach; and PACA-trust beneficiaries such as Growers held an interest superior to Agricap, and Agricap was liable to Growers. The court agreed with the district court's conclusion that Boulder Fruit Express & Heger Organic Farm Sales v. Transportation Factoring, Inc., controls the outcome of the case. The district court noted that the Ninth Circuit in Boulder Fruit expressly addressed the commercial reasonableness of a factoring agreement but implicitly rejected a separate, transfer-of-risk test. The district court further noted that the factoring agreement in Boulder Fruit transferred even less risk than the Factoring Agreement in the present case. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "G.W. Palmer & Co. v. Agricap Financial" on Justia Law

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In November 2014, the Voters of Maui County passed a ballot initiative banning the cultivation and testing of genetically engineered (GE) plants. The district court granted the GE Parties’ motion for summary judgment filed in the Robert Ito Farm action and granted the County’s motion to dismiss filed in the Atay action. The district court found the Ordinance unenforceable because it was expressly and impliedly preempted by federal law, impliedly preempted by state law, and in excess of the County’s authority under the Maui County Charter. SHAKA appealed the district court’s judgment in both cases. The court concluded that SHAKA and other appellants have Article III standing based on the allegations of five individual appellants who allege that GE farming operations on Maui threaten economic harm to their organic, non-GE farms. The court also concluded that the district court did not err in denying SHAKA’s motion to remand to state court, and in denying SHAKA’s request for Rule 56(d) discovery. The court held that the Ordinance is expressly preempted by the Plant Protection Act, 7 U.S.C. 7756(b), to the extent that it bans GE plants that the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) regulates as plant pests. The court held that the ban is not impliedly preempted by the Plant Protection Act in its application to GE crops that APHIS has deregulated, but is impliedly preempted in this application by Hawaii’s comprehensive state statutory scheme for the regulation of potentially harmful plants. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment and its dismissal in two related actions related to the ordinance. View "Atay v. County of Maui" on Justia Law

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After the County approved a county ordinance prohibiting the growth, testing, and cultivation of genetically engineered crops, plaintiffs filed suit to enjoin and invalidate the Ordinance. Two public-interest citizens’ groups, Shaka and MOM Hui, filed motions to intervene. The magistrate judge granted Shaka’s motion to intervene but denied MOM Hui’s, finding that Shaka would adequately represent MOM Hui’s interests. The district court held that the magistrate judge had jurisdiction to rule on MOM Hui’s motion to intervene; any appeal from the magistrate judge’s order needed to be taken to the Ninth Circuit because the magistrate judge, having obtained the consent of the parties, had authority to enter a final decision under 28 U.S.C. 636(c)(1); and thus the district court lacked jurisdiction to hear MOM Hui’s appeal. The court agreed with the Seventh Circuit that a prospective intervenor is not a "party" as the term is used in section 636(c)(1). The court concluded that, because the magistrate judge had the consent of the parties and did not need the consent of MOM Hui, the magistrate judge had jurisdiction to rule on MOM Hui’s motion to intervene. Effectively presiding as a district judge over the suit, the court explained that the magistrate judge’s intervention order became immediately appealable to this court. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Roberto Ito Farm, Inc. v. County of Maui" on Justia Law

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After Kauai County passed Ordinance 960 to regulate pesticides and genetically engineered (GE) plants, plaintiffs filed suit challenging the Ordinance. Plaintiffs are companies that supply seed for GE plants. The Ordinance requires commercial farmers to maintain “buffer zones” between crops to which pesticides are applied and certain surrounding properties, provide notifications before and after applying pesticides, and file annual reports disclosing the cultivation of GE crops. The Hawaii Pesticides Law, HRS Ch. 149A, and its implementing rules also regulate pesticides, including by imposing notification requirements and conditions of use, such as locations of permissible use. The district court held that the Ordinance's pesticide provisions are preempted by Hawaii state law. The court concluded that the Hawaii Pesticides Law preempts Ordinance 960's pesticide provisions because both address the same subject matter, the State's scheme for the regulation of pesticides is comprehensive; and the legislature clearly intended for the State’s regulation of pesticides to be uniform and exclusive. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendants’ motion to certify the preemption issues to the Hawaii Supreme Court. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's conclusion that the Hawaii Pesticides Law impliedly preempts Ordinance 960’s pesticide provisions; affirmed the district court’s conclusion that Hawaii law impliedly preempts Ordinance 960’s GE crop reporting provision in a concurrently filed memorandum disposition; and affirmed the district court’s denial of defendants’ motion to certify. View "Syngenta Seeds, Inc. v. County of Kauai" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, six states, filed suit seeking to block enforcement of California's laws and regulations prescribing standards for the conditions under which chickens must be kept in order for their eggs to be sold in the state. Plaintiffs seek to block enforcement before the laws and regulations take effect. The court agreed with the district court that plaintiffs lacked standing to bring this case as parens patriae where plaintiffs failed to demonstrate an interest apart from the interests of particular private parties because plaintiffs' alleged harm to the egg farmers in plaintiffs' states is insufficient to satisfy the first prong of parens patriae; plaintiffs' allegations regarding the potential economic effects of the laws, after implementation, were necessarily speculative; and plaintiffs’ reliance on cases granting parens patriae standing to challenge discrimination against a state’s citizens is misplaced where the laws do not distinguish among eggs based on their state of origin. The court also concluded that plaintiffs would be unable to assert parens patriae standing in an amended complaint. Because plaintiffs could allege post-effective-date facts that might support standing, the complaint should have been dismissed without prejudice. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment and remanded with instructions to dismiss the action without prejudice. View "State of Missouri ex rel. Koster v. Harris" on Justia Law

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The court certified to the Washington Supreme Court the two questions: (1) Does the Washington Farm Labor Contractor Act, in particular Washington Revised Code 19.30.010(2), include in the definition of a “farm labor contractor” an entity who is paid a per-acre fee to manage all aspects of farming - including hiring and employing agricultural workers as well as making all planting and harvesting decisions, subject to approval - for a particular plot of land owned by a third party? and (2) Does the FLCA, in particular Washington Revised Code 19.30.200, make jointly and severally liable any person who uses the services of an unlicensed farm labor contractor without either inspecting the license issued by the director of the Department of Labor & Industries to the farm labor contractor or obtaining a representation from the director of the Department of Labor & Industries that the contractor is properly licensed, even if that person lacked knowledge that the farm labor contractor was unlicensed? View "Saucedo v. Farmland Mgmt. Serv." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a putative class action arguing that the sodium content in a "serving" of sunflower seeds must include the sodium contained in the edible coating. The court concluded that, because the coating is edible and is intended to be edible, the portion of the edible coating on the shell of the sunflower seed must be accounted for in the calculation of the sodium content. Because plaintiff's state-law claims, if successful, would impose no greater burden than those imposed by federal law, her state law claims were not preempted. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's grant of defendant's motion to dismiss. View "Lilly v. ConAgra Foods" on Justia Law

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This appeal involved the USDA's regulation of Roundup Ready Alfalfa (RRA), a plant genetically modified by the Monsanto Company and Forage Genetics International to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup). At issue was the Record of Decision (ROD) issued by APHIS, which unconditionally deregulated RRA on the ground that it was not a "plant pest" within the meaning of the term in the Plant Protection Act (PPA), 7 U.S.C. 7701-7772. The court affirmed the judgment of the district court because the statute did not regulate the types of harms that plaintiffs complained of, and therefore, APHIS correctly concluded that RRA was not a "plant pest" under the PPA. Once the agency concluded that RRA was not a plant pest, it no longer had jurisdiction to continue regulating the plant. APHIS's lack of jurisdiction over RRA obviated the need for the agency to consult with the FWS under the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. 1531, and to consider alternatives to unconditional deregulation under the National Environmental Policy Act, 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq. Accordingly, the district court properly entered summary judgment in favor of defendants. View "Center for Food Safety v. Vilsack " on Justia Law

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Farmers that irrigate their land using water from the San Luis Unit of the Central Valley Project claimed that the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 501 et seq., compelled the Bureau to provide their irrigation districts with more water than it was currently providing. Farmers argued that several federal statutes required the Bureau to provide irrigators with sufficient irrigation water to satisfy Farmers' needs before delivering water to any other party for any other purpose. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Bureau on several grounds. Pursuant to the Supreme Court's decision in Norton v. Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), the court held that the Bureau was not legally required to take a discrete action to deliver Farmers' preferred amount of San Luis Unit water for irrigation before it provided water for others. The Bureau retained the discretion to allocate San Luis water among various parties to satisfy its various obligations. There was no final agency action, nor was there any action that the Bureau had unlawfully withheld. Farmers' claims amounted to a broad programmatic attack on the way the Bureau generally operated the Central Valley Project and therefore Farmers have not established subject matter jurisdiction under the APA. View "San Luis Unit Food Producers, et al v. United States, et al" on Justia Law