R-CALF loses its appeal in the face of the RFID challenge
The ranchers lost their federal claims in an appeal of a lawsuit originally filed in 2019 against the USDA and the Secretary of Agriculture challenging the use of two private groups to help craft the proposed rule by the government requiring the use of electronic ear tags for livestock.
The United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the 10th District ruled Friday against R-CALF USA and ranchers in Wyoming and South Dakota who challenged the agencies’ use of two private groups to help formalize the government’s proposed rule requiring electronic ear tags. The ranchers claimed the Cattle Traceability Working Group (CTWG) and Producer Traceability Council (PTC) were subject to the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), but the three-judge panel was not disagree.
In April 2019, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) released its Mandatory Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Mandate which was to take effect January 1, 2023. R-CALF USA has sued in October 2019, alleging that the agencies mandate was illegal. The agencies later withdrew the warrant and asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that the agencies voluntarily cured their breach.
That lawsuit was dismissed by a federal judge in February 2020 when the USDA pulled a fact sheet promoting the change. It was then that the CTWG and the PTC began to meet to discuss the technology. The USDA claimed it did not create or manage the groups, but R-CALF USA called the group’s membership biased and claimed FACA violations. R-CALF filed an amended lawsuit in April 2021, asking the court “to issue declaratory relief that [defendants] violated FACA,” or to prohibit Defendants from using any “work product of” CTWG or PTC. When the lower court dismissed the second complaint in May 2021, the plaintiffs appealed.
Harriet Hageman, an attorney for the New Civil Liberties Alliance, told the three-judge appeals court that the USDA could not have moved forward with rulemaking without input from the task forces and urged the panel to focus on the consequences of the rule.
“The evil is that the USDA is trying to move forward with a radio frequency identification requirement based on two illegally formed committees under the FACA,” Hageman said.
The Circuit Court, however, disagreed with Hageman.
“We agree with the District Court that there is no basis to conclude that Defendants either ‘established’ or ‘used’ the Livestock Traceability Task Force or the Livestock Traceability Board. producers within the meaning of the Federal Advisory Committee Act,” wrote Senior U.S. Circuit Judge Mary. Beck Briscoe in a 46-page review.
“Therefore, we deny plaintiffs’ requests to enter judgment in their favor. Instead, we affirm the district court’s decision in its entirety,” she wrote for the panel.
“The evidence on file indicates quite clearly that the Livestock Traceability Task Force and Producer Traceability Council were formed and comprised of industry leaders,” Briscoe wrote.
Source: the herdsmen