Oral arguments about USDA’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit in a federal court for Westen New York over the new swine rule are set for March 17. In separate litigation on the same subject matter, a federal judge for Northern California on Feb. 5 decided to deny a motion to dismiss without bothering to hear oral arguments.
In Center for Food Safety, et al, v. Sonny Perdue, federal Judge Jeffrey S. White denied the Perdue motion to dismiss.
“The Court has considered the parties’ papers, relevant legal authority, and the record in this case, and finds the motion suitable for disposition without oral argument,” Judge White wrote.
In Northern California, the plaintiffs are The Center for Food Safety, Food & Water Watch, and Humane Farming Association. Their lawsuit was filed in early 2020, naming then-Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue as the defendant.
Farm and animal welfare organizations led by Farm Sanctuary sued USDA and its Food Safety and Inspection Service(FSIS) in late 2019. USDA filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, largely on the argument that the Sanctuary-led plaintiffs lack sufficient standing for the lawsuit to go forward.
It took only three days for the Western New York plaintiffs to enter the California judge’s ruling in their case. They are sharing Judge White’s ruling with Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford in New York’s Western District because it goes to the heart of the arguments that will now be heard on March 17.
It says in the Order, White “holds that plaintiff animal, consumer, and environmental protection organizations have both organizational and associational standing to challenge the Deregulatory Rule.”
FSIS continues to maintain that the new swine rules, about 25 years in the making, continue all required inspections by FSIS personnel while freeing USDA inspection personnel from some so-called cosmetic chores. Both the new swine and poultry inspection schemes are supposed to give senior inspection personnel more time to enforce Sanitation and HACCP plans.
Critics, like the plaintiffs in both cases, believe the new inspection systems give market hog producers too much authority.
The organizations also assert that the new swine rules may cause harm by their lifting of the slaughter-line speed. The California suit is one of three that have been lodged around the country challenging the legality of the swine-slaughter rules.
Line speed could become a moot issue, however. The incoming Biden administration withdrew the line speed issue as it related to poultry and it might well spread to swine.
The court ruled that “[a]ccepting [their] allegations as true, the Court concludes there is a credible threat that [they are] members face an increased risk of illness from consuming adulterated pork products because of the [new rules], sufficiently establishing standing based on potential future harm.”
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