California lemon growers are suing the U.S. government for allowing Argentine lemons into the United States. The U.S. Citrus Science Council (USCSC), representing approximately 750 family citrus farmers, has filed the lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in federal district court in Fresno, California.
Members of the California citrus industry are challenging the rule because the Administrative Procedure Act, a federal law that establishes how federal agencies can issue rules, was not followed.
“It is obvious that political considerations outweighed the basic administrative process and science for the past 12 months,” states Richard Pidduck, a Santa Paula-area lemon grower and plaintiff, in a news release sent out last week.
According to Joel Nelsen, California Citrus Mutual president, “The rule is claimed to be grounded on information gained from an Argentine site visit said to have taken place in 2015. Despite repeated requests and the filing of a Freedom of Information Act request, we have never been allowed to review a trip report for that visit. The rule itself provides no information on this foundational visit,” Nelson explains in the new release.
Robert Grether, a Ventura-area lemon grower and board member for the USCSC adds, “As Ventura County citrus growers, my brother and I know firsthand the pressures of invasive pests. Our family has been farming here for five generations, and we hope to continue the tradition of our family farm that each generation has worked so hard to sustain. But our farming costs have soared since the Asian citrus psyllid moved into Ventura County from the Los Angeles metropolitan area, so it is confounding to us that USDA didn’t address the extraordinary risk of a new disease spreading from an urban area to a rural area in this rule.”
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