Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund
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Defending the rights and broadening the freedoms of family farms and protecting
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Status of the Case - USDA-NAIS

July 23, 2009

On July 23, 2009, the District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed the Legal Defense Fund's and its Plaintiff members' NAIS case against the USDA and the Michigan Department of Agriculture.  The Court's ruling stated that NAIS is a voluntary program at the federal level and, because of this, any alleged injury suffered in the case was caused by the State of Michigan and not by USDA.  Because NAIS is voluntary at the federal level, according to the Court, any claims lie against the State of Michigan.  The Court rejected Plaintiffs' argument that USDA, through various memoranda of understanding and federal funding, had coerced Michigan into implementing NAIS at the State level.

The Court also dismissed Plaintiffs' case against the State of Michigan, stating that a suit against Michigan under state law in federal court was barred by the 11th Amendment.  Further, Michigan could not be sued under federal law in federal court because federal law does not apply to Michigan.  Rather, any injury suffered by Plaintiffs was caused by Michigan acting under state law, for which the remedy lies in state court.  Consequently, all claims against Michigan were dismissed as well.

The Fund is disappointed in the Court's decision.  The Court did not allow the Fund and its Plaintiff members to present evidence of coercion on the part of USDA which would have demonstrated that (1) it is USDA that is causing Plaintiffs their injury (thus allowing claims against USDA) and (2) Michigan was subject to federal law (thus allowing claims against Michigan).  Because they did not present such evidence of coercion, according to the Court, Plaintiffs could not prove their case.

The Fund is considering its options at this point, including the filing of an appeal, the filing of a request to reconsider the evidence and the law, or bringing a case in state court against Michigan.  A motion to reconsider must be filed on or before August 6th.


May 18, 2009

The Legal Defense Fund won a minor victory today in its struggles to put a halt to the NAIS program nationwide. In an Order issued by Judge Rosemary M. Collyer of the District of Columbia District Court, the Fund was granted permission to supplement the administrative record filed by USDA. The original administrative record filed by USDA omitted many USDA and Michigan Department of Agriculture documents that demonstrate NAIS is not “voluntary” as alleged but is in fact mandatory. The documents that the Court wishes to see in the administrative include all of USDA’s press releases that pertain to NAIS, all of the federal register announcements that were omitted by USDA, as well as several internal USDA and MDA/USDA joint documents demonstrating that USDA is paying MDA to implement NAIS in the State of Michigan under the guise of eradicating tuberculosis. Once the record is supplemented by the documents requested by the Fund, the Court will be in a better position to determine whether USDA and/or MDA have violated applicable law, and what the appropriate remedy should be.