Roundup Ready Litigation

This article is the state of play as of February 21

Published online: Mar 01, 2011 Feature By Luther Markwart
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On February 4, 2011, the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) issued a 369-page Environmental Assessment and a Determination Decision that authorized planting of Roundup Ready sugarbeets.
USDA-APHIS' decision included mandatory interim measures for planting Roundup Ready sugarbeet crops, including the spring 2011 crop, while APHIS prepares a final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on Roundup Ready sugarbeets.


It did so based on the Supreme Court decision last year on RR alfalfa. The Supreme Court said, " If the agency found, on the basis of a new EA, that a limited and temporary deregulation satisfied applicable statutory and regulatory requirements, it could proceed with such a deregulation even if it had not yet finished the onerous EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) required for complete deregulation."


USDA is now allowing RRSB to be planted with a number of conditions for the root crop.
The RRSB seed crop to be planted in 2011 (to produce seed for the 2012 root crop) in the Willamette Valley in Oregon can be planted under APHIS restrictive permits implementing 18 mandatory conditions.


But wait.

While the USDA has given the industry a path forward for 2011, activist groups have once again attempted to derail the process by seeking to amend their case involving sugarbeet stecklings - which is currently on appeal -- and asking Judge White in San Francisco to enter a temporary restraining order and injunction to bar RRSB crops in 2011.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard the sugarbeet appeal on February 15 in San Francisco and we are awaiting a decision.


On February 18, Judge White denied plaintiffs' motion to amend the complaint, finding that the new claims are not related to the old claims and, instead, are based on an entirely new record that the Court has never reviewed.

Judge White also noted that the interests of judicial economy would best be served if plaintiff's requests for injunctive relief were heard in the Grant case that we have filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.


The Grant case has been filed by the beet sugar industry against the Center for Food Safety, the Sierra Club, and USDA.
Grower leaders and our staff want to be very clear that the sugarbeet industry appreciates the Secretary's leadership and USDA's thorough scientific review reflected in this partial deregulation of Roundup Ready sugarbeets while work on the EIS continues.
However, to address the uncertainty created by the Center for Food Safety's vows to overturn APHIS' determination, the sugarbeet industry has filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia that, in part, seeks a declaratory judgment that APHIS' action fulfills the requirements of federal law.


Because the sugarbeet industry feels that a few of the mandatory measures required by APHIS go beyond what is required under federal law, the lawsuit also asks the Court to determine that certain of the interim measures adopted by APHIS impose an unnecessary burden.
This lawsuit does not reflect a lack of respect or dissatisfaction with the significant work that USDA has undertaken to address matters that are critical to our industry, including the opportunity to plant Roundup Ready sugarbeets this spring.

A tremendous amount of work by USDA officials went into the comprehensive EA, and growers need to recognize and appreciate that effort.


ASGA Annual Meeting


This year's meeting was yet again a great success. Having key speakers address the pressing issues before us made an informative and enjoyable meeting.
Next year's meeting will be held February 9-11 at the Walt Disney World Swan in Orlando.
Mark it on your calendar. The main focus will be on the 2012 farm bill, so it will be a meeting you will not want to miss.


Intern Applications


ASGA is accepting Cleavinger Intern applications for 2011.
This is a fantastic program that makes a huge difference in the lives of those who participate. It will be a very intense summer and an experience of a lifetime. We need your applications by mid-March. Go to www.americansugarbeet.org for an application.