California Growers Sue to Stop Imports of Argentine Lemons
A group of California citrus growers has sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture seeking to stop implementation of a new rule that would lift the ban on importation of lemons from Argentina, claiming the rule violates both “sound science and good public policy.” U.S. Citrus Sci. Council v. USDA, No. 17-0680 (E.D. Cal., filed May 17, 2017). The plaintiffs assert that the United States has banned Argentine lemon imports since 1947 because “highly destructive plant pests and diseases plague Argentine citrus” and the Argentine government agency charged with plant protection “has a long and problematic history of failing to report pest and disease outbreaks promptly and of failing to ensure compliance” with basic plant protection measures.
The plaintiffs argue that the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service violated both the Plant Protection Act and the Administrative Procedure Act when it promulgated the new rule relying on conclusions reached during a 2015 visit to Argentina without permitting public review of or comment on the information gathered. The complaint also asserts that Argentina is home to a “significant number” of pests which, if introduced into the United States, could be catastrophic for California’s agricultural industry.