US almond growers achieve court victory in fight against mandatory
years after the USDA destroyed the U.S. raw almond business by forcing almond
producers to fumigate or pasteurize their nuts, a significant victory has
been achieved that could overturn that onerous regulation. A federal appeals
court has ruled that California almond farmers may now challenge the USDA
regulation in the courts.
is this a victory? Because for years, a federal district court has ruled
that almond growers could not even challenge the rule. The USDA's power
over farmers was absolutely, the court seemed to say, and no mere peasants
can challenge the King.
today that has all changed. A Cornucopia Institute press release announces
the details of this court decision:
From the Cornucopia
See original release at http://www.cornucopia.org/2010/08/federal-court-victory-almond-farmers-can-challenge-usda-pasteurization-rule/
DC – A federal appeals court ruled today, overturning a lower court
decision, that a group of California almond farmers have the right to challenge
a USDA regulation requiring the treatment of their raw almonds with a toxic
fumigant or steam heat prior to sale to consumers. For the past three years,
the U.S. Department of Agriculture has denied American consumers the right
to buy raw almonds, grown in the USA, when they shop in grocery and natural
of almond growers sued the government to challenge USDA's rule, but the
federal district court ruled that courtroom doors were closed to the growers'
claims. The controversial rule has cost individual farmers millions of dollars
in lost sales since it was enacted in September 2007.
are delighted by the court's decision," said Will Fantle, Cornucopia's
Research Director. Cornucopia has been coordinating the legal strategy for
the farmers' lawsuit. "At long last the farmers who have been injured
by this rule will have the opportunity to stand in court and state why this
poorly thought out regulation should be thrown out," Fantle added.
USDA and the Almond Board of California imposed the treatment scheme to
minimize the risk of salmonella contamination outbreaks like those that
had occurred with almonds in 2001 and 2004. USDA investigators were never
able to determine how salmonella bacteria somehow contaminated the raw almonds
that caused the food illnesses but they were able to trace back one of the
outbreaks, in part, to the country's largest "factory farm," growing
almonds and pistachios on over 9000 acres.
growers have argued that the onerous and expensive mandated treatment regime
is only needed by the giant industrial producers, who have less control
over the quality of their nuts, and has hurt their market because it consumer
in the industry have questioned the logic exempting foreign-grown almonds
from the treatment scheme. Imports have displaced raw domestic nuts in many
major markets and retail locations across the U.S. This regulatory loophole
is part of what has been crushing California producers.
am very happy with this first step in overturning this destructive regulation,"
said Nick Koretoff, an almond farmer and plaintiff in the lawsuit. "The
treatment mandate has been a financial catastrophe for me. My consumers
want raw, untreated healthy almonds and I have been denied the opportunity
to sell them what they want."
John Vetne, who has been representing the almond farmers, said the Appeals
Court made a "very strong decision affirming farmers' rights."
The USDA had been arguing that farmers did not even have the right to legally
challenge the USDA regulation. "We are pleased that the Appeals Court
rejected USDA's argument that courthouse doors are closed to farmers. We
now intend to demonstrate to the federal district court that USDA acted
outside of authority granted by Congress when it denied California almond
growers a consumer market for raw almonds," Vetne added.
of thousands of consumers have expressed their discontent with the raw almond
treatment rule in comments to the USDA. Organic and raw foods enthusiasts
were particularly incensed that the nuts, despite being processed with propylene
oxide (identified as a carcinogen by the federal EPA) or steam-heat, were
still allowed to be labeled as "raw" -- many believe that essential
nutrients in food can be destroyed by heat, radiation and toxic chemicals.
Cornucopia Institute, an organization known for its research and defense
of family farmers involved in organics, artisan and local food production,
was impressed with how many consumers have a real passion for maintaining
the availability of raw food and nuts, including almonds, and have been
willing to financially support the farmers in their legal challenge. "Contributions
continue to flow in supporting this effort," Fantle noted.
and many of my friends look forward to the day when we will once again be
able to easily purchase truly raw, authentic almonds from California in
my local store," said Joan Levin, a Chicago resident and raw foods
consumer. "We hope this Appeals Court ruling brings that day closer,"