Harvey v. Veneman, Civil No. 02-216-P-H (D. Me. 10/10/2003)

Decision Date10 October 2003
Docket NumberCivil No. 02-216-P-H.
PartiesARTHUR HARVEY, Plaintiff v. ANN VENEMAN, SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Maine

ARTHUR HARVEY, CANTON, ME, PRO SE, for Plaintiff.

HALSEY B. FRANK, PORTLAND, ME, for Defendant AGRICULTURE, US SECRETARY.

RECOMMENDED DECISION ON CROSS MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

MARGARET J. KRAVCHUK, Magistrate Judge.

Arthur Harvey has filed this civil action challenging the validity of several aspects of the regulatory rules established by the Department of Agriculture to implement the Federal Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA), 7 U.S.C. § 6501-6522. In this recommended decision I address the parties' cross motions for summary judgment. (Dockets Nos. 27 & 31), ultimately concluding that the Secretary's motion should be GRANTED, except for Count Nine which I recommend be remanded to the Secretary for further rulemaking.

Scope of Administrative Procedures Act Review of Agency Rulemaking

A party is entitled to summary judgment if, "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and . . . the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). However, because the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) "standard affords great deference to agency decisionmaking and because the Secretary's action is presumed valid, judicial review, even at the summary judgment stage, is narrow." Associated Fisheries Me., Inc. v. Daley, 127 F.3d 104, 109 (1st Cir. 1997) (citing Citizens to Preserve Overton Park,. Inc. v. Volpe, 401 U.S. 402, 415-16 (1971) and Sierra Club v. Marsh, 976 F.2d 763, 769 (1st Cir. 1992)).

As applicable to Harvey's challenges, the APA provides that this Court "shall":

(1) compel agency action unlawfully withheld or unreasonably delayed; and

(2) hold unlawful and set aside agency action, findings, and conclusions found to be —

(A) arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law;

(B) contrary to constitutional right, power, privilege, or immunity;

(C) in excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations, or short of statutory right;

(D) without observance of procedure required by law;

(E) unsupported by substantial evidence in a case subject to sections 556 and 557 of this title or otherwise reviewed on the record of an agency hearing provided by statute; or

(F) unwarranted by the facts to the extent that the facts are subject to trial de novo by the reviewing court.

5 U.S.C. § 706.

This is a dispute over the propriety of the rules promulgated by the Secretary. The First Circuit has explained that the standard for judicial review of informal notice and comment rulemaking under the "arbitrary and capricious" standard of subsection (A) "is narrow, and a court may not set aside an agency rule that is `rational' and `based on a consideration of the relevant factors.'" Brewer v. Madigan, 945 F.2d 449, 456-57 (1st Cir. 1991) (quoting Motor Vehicle Mfrs. Assoc. v. State Farm Mut., 463 U.S. 29, 42-43 (1983)). This Court need only determine whether the Secretary's decision with respect to the promulgation of these regulations "was consonant with [her] statutory powers, reasoned, and supported by substantial evidence in the record." Associated Fisheries, 127 F.3d at l09.

The delegation of rulemaking authority by Congress to agencies can be either express or implicit. Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Res. Def. Counsel, 467 U.S. 837, 844 (1984). In United States v. Mead Corp., the Court expounded on Chevron:

Congress . . . may not have expressly delegated authority or responsibility to implement a particular provision or fill a particular gap. Yet it can still be apparent from the agency's generally conferred authority and other statutory circumstances that Congress would expect the agency to be able to speak with the force of law when it addresses ambiguity in the statute or fills a space in the enacted law, even one about which "Congress did not actually have an intent" as to a particular result. [Chevron, 467 U.S.] at 845. When circumstances implying such an expectation exist, a reviewing court has no business rejecting an agency's exercise of its generally conferred authority to resolve a particular statutory ambiguity simply because the agency's chosen resolution seems unwise, see id., at 845-846, but is obliged to accept the agency's position if Congress has not previously spoken to the point at issue and the agency's interpretation is reasonable, see id., at 842-845; cf 5 U.S.C. § 706(2) (a reviewing court shall set aside agency action, findings, and conclusions found to be "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law").

533 U.S. 218, 229 (2001). And, although he might have it otherwise, in this suit Harvey's submissions only support a facial, as opposed to an as applied, challenge to the rules and he cannot use this suit to attack an imagined unlawful application of the rule, Massachusetts v. United States, 856 F.2d 378, 384 (1988), a limitation that I have applied in my review in a manner that should assuage the Secretary's various ripeness concerns.

Standing

With respect to the Secretary's challenge to Harvey's standing, I conclude that Harvey has standing with to respect at least eight of the nine claims. It is uncontested that Harvey is a certified organic farmer, a handler as defined under OFF A, an organic foods consumer, and an organic inspector employed by USD A accredited certifiers. (Harvey Aff., Docket No. 28.) There are three elements to "the irreducible constitutional minimum of standing," Luian v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992): concrete injury that "must affect the plaintiff in a personal and individual way" and that is "actual or imminent," id. at 560 & n. 1; "a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of," id.: and the prospect of redress from the injury must be likely verses speculative, id. at 561. In Lujan the Court observed:

When the suit is one challenging the legality of government action or inaction, the nature and extent of facts that must be averred (at the summary judgment stage) or proved (at the trial stage) in order to establish standing depends considerably upon whether the plaintiff is himself an object of the action (or forgone action) at issue. If he is, there is ordinarily little question that the action or inaction has caused him injury, and that a judgment preventing or requiring the action will redress it.

Id. at 561-62. Vis-a-vis Harvey's challenges to the propriety of the procedures used during rulemaking, he does not have "standing merely because of the government's failure to comply with the relevant procedural requirements." Cent. & S.W. Servs., Inc. v. E.P.A., 220 F.3d 683, 699 (5th Cir. 2000). "Instead," Harvey "must show an injury that is both concrete and particular, as opposed to an undifferentiated interest in the proper application of the law." Id. Because of Harvey's status as an approved certifier, an organic grower, an organic consumer, and an individual actively involved in the rule making process, I do not, for the most part, credit the Secretary's standing concern, except, as noted below, with respect to Count VII.

Overview of OFPA

OFPA was enacted "to establish national standards governing the marketing of certain agricultural products as organically produced products"; "to assure consumers that organically produced products meet a consistent standard"; and "to facilitate interstate commerce in fresh and processed food that is organically produced." 7 U.S.C. § 6501. These aims are pursued by the establishment of "an organic certification program for producers and handlers of agricultural products that have been produced using organic methods." Id. § 6503(a).

OFPA provides:

To be sold or labeled as an organically produced agricultural product under this chapter, an agricultural product shall —

(1) have been produced and handled without the use of synthetic chemicals, except as otherwise provided in this chapter;

(2) except as otherwise provided in this chapter and excluding livestock, not be produced on land to which any prohibited substances, including synthetic chemicals, have been applied during the 3 years immediately preceding the harvest of the agricultural products; and

(3) be produced and handled in compliance with an organic plan agreed to by the producer and handler of such product and the certifying agent.

7 U.S.C. § 6504. Section 6505(a)(1) addresses the compliance requirement and resulting labeling of products:

(A) a person may sell or label an agricultural product as organically produced only if such product is produced and handled in accordance with this chapter; and

(B) no person may affix a label to, or provide other market information concerning, an agricultural product if such label or information implies, directly or indirectly, that such product is produced and handled using organic methods, except in accordance with this chapter.

"A label affixed, or other market information provided, in accordance with paragraph (1) may indicate that the agricultural product meets Department of Agriculture standards for organic production and may incorporate the Department of Agriculture seal." Id. § 6505(a)(2). See also id. § 6506 (listing OFPA's general requirements for the certification program).

Harvey's Nine Counts
First Three Counts

Counts I, II, and in pertain to processed food. OFPA defines processing to include manufacturing treatments such as cooking, drying, extracting, eviscerating, and the like, as well as techniques used to enclose food in a container. 7 U.S.C. § 6502(17). It also defines a handler as "any person engaged in the business of handling agricultural products, except. . . final retailers [who] do not process agricultural products." Id § 6502(9). In his first three counts, Harvey addresses the regulations pertaining to handlers, as opposed to the...

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    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Maine
    • 2 Noviembre 2006
    ...I ruled initially on the plaintiff Harvey's challenge to Department of Agriculture ("UDSA") regulations. Harvey v. Veneman, No. 02cv-216-P-H, 2003 WL 22327171 (D.Me. Oct. 10, 2003); Harvey v. Veneman, 297 F.Supp.2d. 334 (D.Me.2004) (order granting summary judgment). In 2005, the First Circu......

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