The U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming ruled against livestock producers in the case R-CALF USA v. United States Department of Agriculture, et al. The Petitioners are challenging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for violating the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). NCLA represents ranchers who argue that USDA failed to comply with the statutory requirements of FACA in its efforts to develop an unlawful mandate requiring the use of “radio frequency identification” (RFID) for livestock tracking.
Wyoming Court Ruling On FACA Claim Against USDA
The Petitioners’ FACA claim focused on USDA’s refusal to follow certain transparency requirements related to its interaction with two separate advisory committees created for the purpose of assisting in the development of its unlawful mandate. NCLA had asked the Court to recognize the “Cattle Traceability Working Group” (CTWG) and “Producer Traceability Council” (PTC) as federal advisory committees “established” by USDA.
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While we are disappointed in the District Court’s recent decision, the New Civil Liberties Alliance, a nonpartisan, nonprofit civil rights group, was successful in an earlier stage of the case in blocking the effort to force RFID requirements on the livestock industry. Specifically, NCLA previously forced USDA to withdraw its two-page factsheet directing livestock producers to use RFID eartags.
As for the FACA claim, NCLA successfully expanded the administrative record despite USDA’s and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) efforts to hide documents that were relevant to the court’s decision. NCLA has also put USDA and APHIS on notice that their efforts to illegally push RFID on livestock producers will be closely scrutinized.
Violation Of The 2013 Final Rule
A live controversy continues to exist so long as USDA pursues mandatory RFID in violation of the 2013 Final Rule on livestock identification and traceability. NCLA will continue to try to prevent USDA and APHIS from seeking to make use of any of the RFID-related work product and recommendations from those advisory committees set up and operated in violation of FACA.
NCLA will be evaluating all of its options, including an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Judicial Circuit.
For more information visit the case page here.
NCLA released the following statement:
“We are disappointed in the Court’s decision finding that USDA/APHIS did not “establish” or “utilize” the CTWG or the PTC in their development of the 2019 Factsheet and RFID policy. We believe that it is clear from the defendants’ own administrative record that they were there every step of the way to put together an “industry group” to support their efforts to force our livestock producers to adopt RFID technology. These agencies knew that their only chance of pushing RFID mandates was to make it appear that there was buy-in from the “industry.” That was the sole purpose of these groups. USDA/APHIS knows that, and the producers know that. It is only the Court that does not seem to recognize the agencies’ role in this situation.” - Harriet Hageman, Senior Litigation Counsel, NCLA
NCLA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit civil rights group founded by prominent legal scholar Philip Hamburger to protect constitutional freedoms from violations by the Administrative State. NCLA’s public-interest litigation and other pro bono advocacy strive to tame the unlawful power of state and federal agencies and to foster a new civil liberties movement that will help restore Americans’ fundamental rights.