The United States Law Week

USDA Gets Partial Win in Organic Label Rule Fight (Corrected)

Feb. 27, 2019, 10:38 PMUpdated: Feb. 28, 2019, 4:23 PM

The U.S. Department of Agriculture won dismissal Feb. 27 of parts of a lawsuit challenging its delay and later withdrawal of a regulation that would have made it more difficult to get a “USDA Organic” label on livestock and poultry products.

The Organic Trade Association has standing to bring the lawsuit against the department because the government’s action altered the landscape OTA members compete in for customers, according to Judge Rosemary Collyer’s opinion for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

But the Trump administration’s later withdrawal of the organic livestock and poultry practices rule mooted claims over the USDA’s delay of the rule’s implementation.

The final rule was issued by former President Barack Obama on his last day in office. Under President Trump, the USDA delayed its implementation, and then withdrew the rule.

The court wasn’t convinced by OTA’s argument that USDA’s delays of the rule were capable of repetition yet evading review. The OTA hadn’t identified another final review affecting its members that would be subject to “repeated short-term delays,” the court said.

But other significant parts of OTA’s suit remain to be litigated including whether the USDA erred in withdrawing the rule altogether, the court said.

Whether the USDA needed to consult with the 15-member National Organic Standards Board before it pulled the rule is a “large and important” question that the court still must decide, it said.

The USDA is represented by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The OTA is represented by Wade, Grimes, Friedman, Meinken & Leischner PLLC.

The case is Organic Trade Ass’n v. USDA, D.D.C., No. 17-1875, 2/27/19.

(Corrected to reflect that claims challenging the rule's withdrawal continue.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Porter Wells in Washington at pwells@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com

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