Articles Posted in Agriculture Law

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Plaintiff, an African American farmer, filed suit against the USDA and others, alleging racial discrimination, retaliation, and conspiracy regarding his loan applications, servicing requests, and the application of administrative offsets to collect on a defaulted loan. The district court dismissed the complaint with prejudice. The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's conclusions that plaintiff's Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA), 15 U.S.C. 1691 et seq., claims were barred by res judicata and collateral estoppel because the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights could not bar subsequent federal litigation; the individual defendants have not demonstrated that plaintiff failed to state an ECOA claim against them where the complaint included sufficient allegations from which one could plausibly infer that the individual defendants qualified as creditors under the ECOA; the district court erred in dismissing plaintiff's Bivens claims against the individual defendants in their individual capacities because his constitutional claims were not barred by a comprehensive remedial scheme; and plaintiff failed to state a claim for conspiracy against the individual defendants. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Johnson v. Perdue" on Justia Law

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A common-benefit trust fund was established to compensate attorneys leading the MDL concerning Bayer’s LibertyLink LL601 genetically modified rice. On appeal, Bayer and Riceland challenge the district court's order requiring Bayer to cause the deposit of a portion of a settlement between Bayer and Riceland into the fund. Bayer and Riceland argue that because their settlement was the product of negotiations following a state-court judgment, the district court lacked jurisdiction to order Bayer to cause a percentage of the settlement to be deposited into the fund. The court concluded that the district court properly ordered Bayer to hold back a portion of the Bayer-Riceland settlement. In this case, application of the Common Benefit Order was a comparable collateral matter that the district court had jurisdiction to resolve in light of the settlement; the district court properly applied the Common Benefit Order to the settlement and required a percentage of the entire settlement to be redirected to the common-benefit fund; and the district court did not plainly err in assigning to Bayer the duty of causing a deposit of the funds due under the Common Benefit Order. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Riceland Foods v. Bayer Cropscience US" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the USDA and others, claiming that defendants violated the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA), 15 U.S.C. 1691 et seq., because they denied his debt settlement offers on the basis of his race and in retaliation for his being a member of the Pigford class-action litigation. Plaintiff also alleged that defendants engaged in a conspiracy under 42 U.S.C. 1985(3) to interfere with his civil rights, and that they violated his rights under the Fifth and Thirteenth Amendments. The district court granted defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's claims. The court held that a final agency decision by the USDA resolving a complaint under 7 C.F.R. Pt. 15d using the administrative procedures currently in effect does not result in claim preclusion. In this case, the complaint does not contain sufficient allegations to state a plausible claim that Thomas Brown and M. Terry Johnson, both of whom are employed with the USDA’s National Appeals Division, are creditors for ECOA purposes. Accordingly, the court affirmed the dismissal of the ECOA claims with respect to Thomas Brown and M. Terry Johnson, and reversed the dismissal of these claims with respect to the remaining defendants. The court also concluded that plaintiff's conspiracy claims under 42 U.S.C. 1985(3) were properly dismissed pursuant to the intracorporate conspiracy doctrine. Finally, the court reversed the dismissal of the Bivens claims because, when a remedial scheme is created entirely by regulation, it does not preclude a Bivens claim. View "Johnson v. USDA" on Justia Law

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Compart, a producer of breeding swine, filed a negligence suit against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 2671 et seq. Compart intended to export over three hundred pigs to China but China suspended all imports from Compart after it was notified by the United States government that the test results from a small set of the blood samples were "inconclusive" for Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome virus (PRRSv). The district court dismissed the suit for lack of jurisdiction. The court affirmed, concluding that the discretionary function exemption precludes jurisdiction over Compart's negligence claims because the testing and reporting of Compart's swine was governed by discretionary governmental procedures and susceptible to policy analysis. View "Compart's Boar Store, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs challenged the USDA's determination that a portion of their farmland is a wetland within the meaning of the pertinent federal statutes and regulations. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the USDA, concluding that the agency's final decision was not arbitrary, capricious, or contrary to the law. In this case, the USDA did not err in determining that Site 1 had the requisite hydrology to quaify as a wetland, and the USDA properly determined that Site 1 would support a prevalence of hydrophytic vegetation under normal circumstances. View "Foster v. Vilsack" on Justia Law

Posted in: Agriculture Law

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Plaintiffs filed a class action against Riceland, requesting the district court compel Riceland to contribute a portion of its recoveries in various cases to the common benefit fund established by the district court to compensate plaintiffs for their legal work. The district court dismissed Riceland's counterclaims of breach of contract and tortious interference and certified the dismissal as a final judgment under FRCP 54(b). The court agreed with its sister circuits and held that a res judicata effect can properly be considered as a “miscellaneous factor” under the Hayden factor analysis. In this case, the district court did not err in considering the res judicata ramification in the Arkansas state court case. The district court found that plaintiffs and the district court itself would suffer injustice if entry of final judgment was delayed. On the merits, the court concluded that the claims regarding genetically-modified rice were released by the Settlement Agreement and Release, but the Release does not govern plaintiffs’ unjust enrichment and quantum meruit claims against Riceland for its failure to contribute to the fund. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Riceland Foods v. Downing" on Justia Law

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In Seifert’s chapter 12 bankruptcy petition, sale proceeds from the current year’s crop were described as $134,661 in “farm earnings,” consisting of checks jointly payable to the Farm Services Agency (FSA), CHS, and Seifert. Seifert claimed $91,258 as exempt under Minnesota Statute 550.37(13). FSA was an over-secured creditor and did not object to Seifert’s claimed exemptions or any of the filed plans. CHS and the trustee objected to Seifert’s exemption claim and to each plan, based on 11 U.S.C. 1225(a)(4): A debtor must demonstrate that: “the value, as of the effective date of the plan, of property to be distributed … [for[ each allowed unsecured claim is not less than … would be paid … if the estate … were liquidated under chapter 7.” They argued that because Seifert was not entitled to an exemption in the farm earnings, payments to the unsecured creditors must include that value. After the parties reached an agreement that reserved the issue of the exemption for later determination, CHS asserted that the exemption dispute was moot because the checks from the sale of the crop had been given to FSA and Seifert retained no interest in those funds. The bankruptcy court agreed. The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel reversed and remanded. Payment to FSA did not override the parties’ stipulation and did not constitute a determination of what would be paid to unsecured creditors. View "Seifert v. Carlson" on Justia Law

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Syngenta, producer of a genetically-modified corn seed, filed suit against Bunge, an agricultural produce storage and transport company, alleging breach of an obligation under the United States Warehouse Act (USWA), 7 U.S.C. 241-256; breach of a duty to third party beneficiaries of a licensing agreement between Bunge and the federal government; and false advertising in violation of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125. The court concluded that the text of the USWA and the structure of the Act do not implicitly authorize a private cause of action for violations of a warehouse operator's fair treatment obligations; Syngenta is not a third-party beneficiary of the License Agreement and the district court did not err in dismissing this claim on the pleadings; and the court found it was necessary to remand the Lanham Act claim, in light of Lexmark Int'l, Inc. v. Static Control Components, Inc., for the district court to determine in the first instance whether Syngenta has standing to bring the claim under the zone-of-interests test and proximate causality requirements. Accordingly, the court affirmed the dismissal of the USWA and third-party beneficiary claims, and vacated the grant of summary judgment to Bunge on the Lanham Act claim and remanded for further proceedings. View "Syngenta Seeds, Inc. v. Bunge North America, Inc." on Justia Law

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Farm Credit had a security interest in corn delivered to Cargill and filed suit against Cargill in replevin for the corn. The district court concluded that Farm Credit's security interest under the Food Security Act (FSA) of 1985, 7 U.S.C. 1631(e), entitled it to proceeds from the corn delivered to Cargill. The court concluded that Cargill did not dispute that Farm Credit complied with the FSA. To the extent that the U.C.C. governs priority disputes as a foundation for the FSA, Cargill's argument failed because U.C.C. 9-404 does not apply in this case. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Farm Credit. View "Farm Credit Serv. v. Cargill, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, individuals and entities who farm corn and soybeans, claimed eligibility to receive payment under the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payment Program (SURE Program) for the 2008 crop year. Plaintiffs alleged that defendants improperly calculated SURE program payments allegedly owed to them under 7 U.S.C. 1531. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the suit because plaintiffs failed to exhaust their administrative remedies before filing suit and no equitable doctrine excused their failure to exhaust. View "Bartlett, et al. v. USDA, et al." on Justia Law