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

Articles Posted in Agriculture 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

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These proceedings involved a complex, rarely litigated federal statute, the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA), 7 U.S.C. 499a et seq., designed in part to assure that farmers were paid for their produce. In 2009, a Judicial Officer (JO) of the USDA determined that petitioners had violated the PACA by failing to make prompt payment for produce purchases. The court held that the JO's determination that the Subsidiaries purchased produce and failed to make prompt payment for it as required by section 499b(4) was supported by substantial evidence; the JO's conclusion that Petitioners Duncan and Bennett were responsibly connected to Consolidation and Farms under section 499a(b)(9) was also supported by substantial evidence and free from legal error; and therefore, the petitions for review were rejected. View "Perfectly Fresh Farms, Inc., et al. v. USDA; Bennett v. USDA" on Justia Law

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The Scotts Company, an Ohio LLC, brought a diversity action against Seeds, Inc., a Washington corporation, in federal district court. Thereafter, Millhorn Farmers, Maple Leaf Farms, Mica Creek, and Tim Freeburg (Growers) sued Seeds and Scotts in Washington state court. Maple Leaf Farms and Mica Creek were Washington corporations, Millhorn Farms was an Idaho corporation, and Tim Freeburg was a citizen of Idaho. Scotts subsequently filed an amended complaint in federal court adding the Growers as defendants and seeking declaratory relief. The district court subsequently realigned the Growers and plaintiffs and Seeds and Scotts as defendants and held, alternatively, that it would stay the federal proceedings in favor of the related state court proceedings under either the Brillhart doctrine or the Colorado River doctrine. Because the parties' realignment resulted in the absence of complete diversity of citizenship between defendant Seeds and newly-aligned plaintiffs-Growers, the district court dismissed the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the district court should not have declined to entertain the claim for declaratory relief under the Brillhart doctrine, and instead, the claims should have been evaluated under the Colorado River doctrine. Remanded. View "Scotts Co., LLC v. Seeds, Inc." on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal were two issues: (1) whether the judicially created "filed rate doctrine," which typically has been utilized in common carrier and public utility litigation, was applicable in a class action lawsuit seeking monetary and injunctive relief under state law arising from the misreporting of pricing data to the USDA, where the data in turn were used to set a minimum price structure for raw milk sales; and (2) if the doctrine was applicable in that situation, whether the district court erred when it dismissed Plaintiffs' state causes of action on the ground that the filed rate doctrine barred such claims, even though the court found that it was not disputed that the USDA determined that the rates calculated were erroneous and that other rates should have applied based on correct pricing inputs. The plaintiffs here were dairy farmers who sold raw milk that was priced according to the erroneous reports. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, holding that the district court properly determined that the filed rate doctrine applied to the minimum milk pricing program, but erred by concluding that the doctrine applied to bar the plaintiffs' state-law claims in this case. View "Carlin v. DairyAmerica, Inc." on Justia Law

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Pom challenged the name, labeling, marketing, and advertising of Coca-Cola's Pomegranate Blueberry beverage, claiming that Coca-Cola violated the false-advertising provisions of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125(a), and that Coca-Cola violated California's Unfair Competition Law (UCL), Cal. Bus. & Prof'l Code 17200 et seq., and its False Advertising Law (FAL), Cal. Bus. & Prof'l Code 17500 et seq. The district court partially granted Coca-Cola's motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim. The court affirmed the district court's summary judgment to the extent it barred Pom's Lanham Act claim with respect to Pomegranate Blueberry's name and labeling. The court vacated the summary judgment to the extent it ruled that Pom lacked statutory standing on its UCL and FAL claims; the court remanded so that the district court could rule on the state claims.

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Defendant was convicted after a three-day jury trial of four counts of injecting fluids into deep wells without a permit, in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), 42 U.S.C. 300h-2(b)(2). Defendant was also convicted of one count of making a "materially false" statement in a "matter within the jurisdiction" of the United States, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1001(a)(2). Defendant timely appealed. The court affirmed Counts One through Four under section 300h-2(b)(2) and held that the government was required to prove only that defendant willfully injected water into a well more than eighteen feet deep without a permit, knowing that a permit was required under Idaho law; the reference in 40 C.F.R. 147.650(a)(7) to specific provisions of Idaho law, including those applicable to permitting, make clear that the entire Idaho permitting process was approved and incorporated into the SDWA; and that section 300h-2(b)(2) did not exceed Congress' authority under the Commerce Clause. The court affirmed Count Five under section 1001(a)(2) where defendant made a false statement in a matter within the jurisdiction of the United States. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in holding that its limiting instruction and the stipulation cured any possible prejudice that might have been caused by the three references to "waste" and brief display. The court also held that testimony from a supervisor at the Idaho Department of Agriculture was used for the purpose of showing that defendant injected fluids "willfully" and that the testimony was a small part of the evidence presented to the jury that defendant acted "willfully." Thus, if there was any error in presenting the testimony, the error was harmless. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment.

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Plaintiffs, 134 farmers whose crops suffered as a result of the federal Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) use of the herbicide Oust, sued the federal government and Oust's manufacturer (DuPont). Both the jury and the district court allocated 60% of the fault to DuPont and 40% to the federal government. Both the government and DuPont appealed: the court resolved the government's appeal in this opinion and DuPont's appeal in a memorandum disposition filed simultaneously with this opinion. The court held that it lacked subject mater jurisdiction over plaintiffs' Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 2402, claims because plaintiffs filed their lawsuit one day after the FTCA's statute of limitations had run. Therefore, the court held that the district court erred by not dismissing the claims against the federal government.

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Plaintiffs, raisin producers, appealed an administrative decision by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which imposed civil penalties and assessments for their failure to comply with the reserve pool requirements for raisins, among other regulatory infractions. At issue was the interpretation and constitutionality of a food product reserve program authorized by the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937 (AMAA), 7 U.S.C. 601 et seq., and implemented by the Marketing Order Regulating the Handling of Raisins Produced from Grapes Grown in California (Marketing Order), 7 C.F.R. Part 989, first adopted in 1949, which contained the reserve pool requirements. The court held that applying the Marketing Order to plaintiffs in their capacity as handlers was not contrary to the AMAA. The court also held that plaintiffs have suffered no compensable physical taking of any portion of their crops and therefore, the Fifth Amendment posed no obstacle to the enforcement of the Marketing Order under the Takings Clause. The court further held that the district court did not err in finding that the penalties were consistent with the Eighth Amendment and were not excessive fines. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment.

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Jensen Family Farms, Inc. ("Jensen") sued the Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District ("District"), alleging that the District's Rules 220, 310, and 1010 were preempted by the federal Clean Air Act ("CAA"), 42 U.S.C. 7401 et seq.; Rules 220 and 310 violated certain provisions of California law; and the Rules violated Jensen's due process rights. Jensen moved for summary judgment and while it's motion was pending, the district court granted the California Air Resources Board's ("CARB"), California's air pollution control agency, motion to intervene. CARB and the District (collectively, "defendants") subsequently filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Jensen appealed the district court's judgment. The principal question in this case, among other questions, was whether the District's rules were preempted by the CAA. The court held that Rules 220 and 310 were not standards or other requirements related to the control of emissions and therefore, not preempted by CAA 209(e). The court also held that Rule 1010 did not apply to any "nonroad engines," as that term was used in the CAA and therefore, was not preempted under section 209(e). The court further held that there was no basis for Jensen's claim under Cal. Code Regs. tit. 17, 93116 or Cal. Code Regs. tit. 13, 2450 et. seq.; that the Rules did not violate Jenson's due process rights where it admitted that the Rules served the legitimate government interest in minimizing air pollution from diesel engines; and the Rules did not violate California Constitution, Article 13A because Jensen waived this argument in its complaint. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment on the pleadings in favor of defendants.