Ranch Group Files Amended Complaint in RFID Case
Last week, Harriet Hageman, Senior Litigation Counsel for the New Civil Liberties Alliance, filed an amended complaint in the Wyoming federal district court on behalf of R-CALF USA and ranchers Tracy and Donna Hunt and Kenny and Roxy Fox.
In an order dated, March 6, 2020, the court authorized R-CALF USA and the ranchers to file an amended complaint to specifically address their allegations that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its sub-agency, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) when the agencies developed and published their mandatory radio frequency identification (RFID) mandate in April 2019.
The agencies’ April 2019 RFID mandate required all cattle producers to use RFID eartags and to register their premises with the government if they transport adult cattle across state lines after January 1, 2023.
R-CALF USA and the ranchers filed a lawsuit in October 2019 alleging the agencies’ RFID mandate was unlawful. In response, the agencies withdrew their mandate and asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit on grounds that the agencies had voluntarily cured their violation. The court agreed and dismissed the lawsuit.
However, in a motion filed on February 18, 2020, Hageman informed the court that the order to dismiss did not address the lawsuit’s other major allegation – that in addition to violating the law by issuing the RFID mandate in the first place, the agencies also violated the law by having convened one or more committees consisting of eartag manufacturers, packers, and other advocates of mandatory RFID, and relied upon those newly created committees to help the agencies develop policies to implement the RFID mandate by January 1, 2023.
The court granted Hageman’s request by authorizing her clients to file the amended complaint that focuses specifically on their allegation that the USDA and APHIS violated the law by convening and relying upon unlawful committees to assist them in implementing their RFID mandate.
“FACA was designed for just this purpose. It ensures that federal agencies such as the USDA are hearing from all of the stakeholders on a given issue, not just those who stand to make the most money.” It is time to peel back the curtain on how the 2019 Factsheet and RFID mandate came about. Our livestock producers are entitled to no less,” said Hageman.
“We remain deeply concerned that the USDA ran roughshod over independent U.S. cattle producers to assist eartag manufacturers achieve their financial goals by creating an artificial demand for a single technology – forcing RFID eartag use, through an unlawful government mandate. Packers that want to vertically integrate the U.S. cattle industry would also benefit by imposing such a costly mandate on independent cattle producers. It is imperative that we get to the bottom of this so we can prevent this from ever happening again,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.
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