Lawsuit Against USDA over Argentine Lemons Moves Forward
A federal judge ruled Wednesday that U.S. citrus growers have standing to sue the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for its decision to remove the ban on lemon imports from Argentina and therefore the lawsuit can continue.
The suit filed by the U.S. Citrus Science Council and five growers claimed that the USDA and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in May, ignored science and made a politically motivated decision to remove the ban on lemons from northwestern Argentina. The lawsuit also argues that proper procedures were not followed to develop the rule, which was issued Dec. 23. In the early days of the Trump administration, the rule faced a 60-day stay starting Jan. 22, and another 60-day stay went in place March 17. The rule went into effect May 26.
The U.S. originally banned Argentine lemons 15 years ago due to plant pests and diseases in the South American country. The growers allege the Argentinean government has a history of not reporting disease outbreaks, particularly citing citrus black spot disease (CBS).
According to the growers’ lawsuit, the USDA did not analyze how many lemons Argentina will export or how it might affect the U.S. citrus industry.
The numbers of fruit trees in California “provide ample host material for pests arriving from Argentina, and thereby facilitate potentially catastrophic spread in the United States,” the complaint states.
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