Articles Posted in Agriculture Law

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The Department of Pesticide Regulation, acting under the Food & Agriculture Code, approved amended labels for two registered pesticides: Dinotefuran 20SG and Venom Insecticide, which allowed both pesticides to be used on additional crops and allowed Venom to be used in increased quantities. Both pesticides contain the active ingredient dinotefuran, which is in a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids.The Department concluded uses of both pesticides in accord with the label amendments would cause no significant effect on honeybees or the environment. An environmental group challenged the approvals, alleging violations of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by approving the label amendments without sufficient environmental review. The court of appeal reversed the approvals. The Department’s pesticide registration program is exempt only from CEQA chapters 3 and 4 and from Public Resources Code section 21167; its regulatory program remains subject to CEQA's broad policy goals and substantive requirements. The Department’s environmental review was deficient. It failed to address any feasible alternative to registering the proposed new uses for the pesticides; failed to assess baseline conditions with respect to actual use of neonicotinoids in California; and did not show that the Department considered whether the impact to honey bees associated with registering new uses for both insecticides would be cumulatively considerable. View "Pesticide Action Network v. California Department of Pesticide Regulation" on Justia Law

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Until 2000, Sonoma County grape growers could plant or replant a vineyard “as a matter of right” without governmental approval. A 2000 ordinance, governing “grading, drainage improvement, and vineyard and orchard site development within the unincorporated area of the county” requires growers, other than hobbyists, to obtain an erosion-control permit from the Agricultural Commissioner before establishing or replanting a vineyard. An applicant must submit plans demonstrating compliance with certain directives and must accept certain ongoing agricultural practices. The Commissioner issued the Ohlsons a permit to establish a vineyard on land they own that was being used for grazing, finding that issuing the permit was a ministerial act, exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act, Public Resources Code 21000 (CEQA). The trial court agreed. The court of appeal affirmed. Although the ordinance may allow the Commissioner to exercise discretion when issuing erosion-control permits in some circumstances, the objectors did not show that the Commissioner improperly determined that issuing the Ohlsons’ permit was ministerial. Most of the ordinance’s provisions that potentially confer discretion did not apply to their project, and the objectors failed to show that the few that might apply conferred the ability to mitigate potential environmental impacts to any meaningful degree. View "Sierra Club v. County of Sonoma" on Justia Law

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This case involved the raisins. One of the California Marketing Act of 1937's (CMA) requirements was that the Secretary of California’s Department of Food and Agriculture, in adopting a marketing order for industry advertising or research, must find that the order “will tend to effectuate the declared purposes and policies of [the CMA].” The trial court: (1) concluded that this requirement could be met only if “the [o]rder was necessary to address adverse economic conditions in the raisin-growing industry that were so severe as to threaten the continued viability of the industry”; (2) invalidated the advertising and research marketing order challenged here because there was insufficient evidence showing such economic conditions; and (3) found, on these same grounds, that the Department improperly exercised the police power in adopting the marketing order. The Court of Appeal found the trial court’s interpretation of this requirement of the CMA, which Karen Ross, the Secretary, appealed, erroneously limited the CMA’s applicability, as to marketing orders for industry advertising or research, only to Great Depression-like economic circumstances. Consequently, the Court reversed the judgment, which mooted the cross-appeal of Lion Raisins, Inc., and Lion Farms LLC (formerly Lion Brothers) (the cross-appeal concerns the proper calculation of the assessment refund for the invalidated marketing order), and remand the matter for the trial court to consider the other challenges to the marketing order that the raisin companies raised. View "California v. Raisin Valley Farms" on Justia Law

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California Exposition and State Fairs (Cal Expo), regulated by Food and Agriculture Code 3301, is responsible for organizing the State Fair every July and enters into an agreement every year with the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. The School sets up and manages the livestock nursery exhibit where pregnant pigs and other animals are put on display for three weeks to give birth and nurse. Cal Expo provides the land, tent, support infrastructure, and financial compensation, while the School provides the animals, equipment, and staff. Transporting pigs during the last two weeks of their pregnancy causes suffering due to stress and physical discomfort, potentially resulting in an aborted pregnancy. At the fair, the School places the pregnant pigs in farrowing crates, so small that the mother pigs cannot turn around or walk, for the three-week duration of the State Fair. Plaintiffs filed a complaint asserting a section 526a taxpayer action, premised on the theory that defendants waste taxpayer money and staff time by obtaining, transporting, and exhibiting pregnant pigs. The court of appeal affirmed dismissal, agreeing that California’s animal cruelty laws (Pen. Code, 597, 597t.)are not enforceable through a taxpayer action. View "Animal Legal Def.Fund v. CA Exposition & St. Fairs" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Duarte Nursery, Inc. sold grape rootstock. It challenged mandatory assessments it had to pay to the California Grape Rootstock Improvement Commission to help fund research for pest-resistant and drought-resistant rootstock, arguing this “Commission Law” and the Commission’s operation as an unconstitutional exercise of the state’s police power in violation of plaintiff’s liberty interests and due process rights under the federal and state Constitutions. In this appeal, instead of claiming impairment of its rights to free speech or free association, plaintiff asserted a right to refuse to help fund research that benefitted the industry as a whole. Plaintiff sought injunctive and declaratory relief and refunds. After a bench trial, the trial court entered judgment in favor of defendants, the Commission and the Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (Secretary). Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Duarte Nursery v. Cal. Grape Rootstock Improvement Comm." on Justia Law

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The 22-acre Shuler ranch in Soma is below 1000 acres owned by Sunshine Agriculture. After agricultural operations expanded up the hillside, it collapsed onto the Shuler property. The Shulers sued, alleging: "Defendants . . . were responsible for the removal of historic watercourses and stable ground cover and also for unreasonable grading, irrigation, planting and maintenance of the hillside slope. . . . acted negligently in failing to take steps to prevent the land from collapsing. . . . [T]he harm was foreseeable because of the steepness of the slope and nature of its soil." The Shuler's engineering expert found that the slope was unsuitable for development and that the alteration of the water courses and the introduction of irrigation for 1000 trees were the most significant factors responsible for the foreseeable slope failure. Defendants moved to dismiss for failure to join an indispensable party: Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which prepared engineering drawings and calculations in support of the erosion control plan approved by the Ventura County Resource Conservation District. The trial court found that NRCS was a necessary, indispensable party and a federal agency not amenable to suit in state court. The Shulers filed a federal action, naming the same defendants, with the government as an additional defendant. The California Court of Appeal affirmed dismissal of the state suit. View "Dreamweaver Andalusians, LLC v. Prudential Ins. Co." on Justia Law