The case the Guardians have joined – DRA v. USDA – challenges the legality of a rule adopted in 2016 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency that grants exemptions from the usual process of notice, comment and oversight in cases where the government is providing taxpayer-subsidized loans to Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations considered “medium-sized” by the USDA. Such facilities are authorized to hold nearly 125,000 chickens, 55,000 turkeys, 2,500 pigs, 1,000 beef cattle, or 700 dairy cows. By failing to review the financing for these facilities under the National Environmental Policy Act, the Trump Administration has helped cloak their planned operations in secrecy, preventing rural communities from obtaining information regarding the impact of these operations on local air and water quality. In so doing, the Administration promotes factory farms over family farms.
“Grand Lake St. Marys is the poster child for how devastating manure run-off is to a community and its lake. Grand Lake St. Marys pollution goes unchecked with agribusiness and government working in partnership to ignore the environmental impact on a community - everything from the wellbeing of its businesses to the health of its people,” the group said today.
“The Guardians are proud to be a part of this momentous national legal effort that will restore decision-making power to rural communities like ours who have suffered so much from ag corporations’ indifference.”
The plaintiffs in DRA v. USDA allege that both the rulemaking process, and the final rule now being implemented by the Trump Administration, violate NEPA and the Administrative Procedure Act by failing to provide adequate notice of the proposed rule change and refusing to clarify why medium-sized CAFOs should be provided this special treatment and automatically exempt.
In 2010, Grand Lake St. Marys experienced a lake-wide blue-green algae bloom. Despite repeated calls from residents and environmental protection groups, there has been no full disclosure of the cause of the heightened contamination levels in the lake. While state officials have said nearly $40 million has been invested in cleaning up the lake, those funds appear to have been spent on projects with little chance of improving water quality.
Other national and local groups who are part of this lawsuit include Animal Legal Defense Fund, Association of Irritated Residents (Cal.), Citizens Action Coalition (Ind.), Dakota Rural Action (S.D.), Food & Water Watch, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, and White River Waterkeeper (Ark.).