Apr 5, 2018Judge decides government didn’t follow rules in quarantining Idaho potato fields
A district court judge has ruled in favor of a group of Idaho farmers affected by a federal pale cyst nematode quarantine program who claimed that they didn’t have input in the crafting of the program.
After pale cyst nematode (PCN) was detected in a small area near Shelley, Idaho in in 2006, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) set up the quarantine area to prevent its spread.
According to APHIS, there are 27 PCN-infested fields totaling 3,047 acres within the quarantine area and the total number of acres under regulation, including fields associated with the infested fields through the use of the same equipment, is 9,540 acres.
Lodge’s ruling will result in no immediate changes in the implementation of the PCN program, Bill Myers, lead attorney for the potato growers, told the Idaho Farm Bureau.
A group of 15 potato farmers affected by the quarantine filed a federal lawsuit in 2015 that claimed APHIS developed the PCN quarantine program without the proper public notice or input.
District Court Judge Edward Lodge agreed that APHIS violated the rulemaking requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), according to the Idaho Farm Bureau.
Lodge said that under the APA, the federal agency was required to publish notice of the proposed rule, give interested individuals a chance to comment on it and publish the adopted rule not less than 30 days before it became effective.
“Defendants have not asserted nor shown that they satisfied the notice and comment process,” Lodge wrote in his March 20 ruling.
Growers in the regulated area face strict testing and phytosanitary requirements.
Stephanie Mickelsen, one of the potato growers affected by the PCN quarantine program and a party in the lawsuit, said Lodge’s ruling was confirmation that the growers most impacted by the program never got a real say in how it was crafted.
Those growers have been hit hard financially by the program’s strict requirements, she said.
“We’re pleased that these people who have been knocked down and really suffered under this program finally got their voices heard,” she said of Lodge’s ruling. “These growers didn’t get a seat at the table, yet they are the ones who have had to suffer through the requirements.”
The U.S. Department of Justice, which represented APHIS in the lawsuit, declined to comment for this story.