Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Lawsuit Against USDA Compost Policy Allowed to Continue

Written by Tyler R. Etter

On September 29, 2015, a California federal court denied the USDA’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit
brought by the Center for Food Safety, Center for Environmental Health, and Beyond Pesticides. The
lawsuit is challenging a USDA guidance that recognized the presence of synthetic pesticides in compost
used for organic food productions.

The plaintiffs asserted that the USDA guidance effectively allows certified organic producers to use
compost materials treated with synthetic pesticides, amending existing organic food regulations. They
also argued that the guidance violates the produces for public notice and comment, as the guidance was
issued without an opportunity for public input. The USDA argued the requirement did not apply, as the
guidance was not a legislative rule. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley found merit in the
plaintiffs’ arguments, specifically within the context of the premium paid by consumers and farmers to
ensure that organic produce avoids synthetic pesticides.

Prior to the release of the guidance, synthetic substances were expressly prohibited from compost used
in organic food production. Ralph Bloemers, attorney for the Crag Law Center, stated that the guidance
“radically changes organic requirements...” and that the USDA “made the change without the required
rulemaking process.”

Proponents of the lawsuit are calling the denial of the motion to dismiss a major victory for public input
in the organic policy process, and believe that the USDA must facilitate public input to ensure the
integrity of the process.

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