“A Tough Row to Hoe: What Partlo v. Johanns Means for the Organic Food Industry”

Appearing in JNREL Vol. 21 No. 2 this comment was written by former staff member Karen Campion. Staff Member Natasha Camenisch wrote the following abstract.

Organic farming has become a popular sector of agriculture in the United States. Organic farmers do not use chemicals on their crops and "currently draw a premium of anywhere from 10% to 130% over the price of conventional produce" because of their farming methods. Since organic farmers are making a huge profit off their crops, the amount of cropland dedicated to growing certified organic crops, fruits, and vegetables is continually growing. As a result of the benefits of organic farming, many consumers have sought to protect the integrity of this agriculture practice.

Congress enacted the Crop Loss Disaster Assistance Program (CLDAP) to provide "emergency assistance to all farmers who lost crops due to a disaster, as soon as practicable." Partlo v. U.S., 2006 WL 1663380 at *33 (D.D.C. 2006). In 1995, the CLDAP established separate payment rates and yields were established for different end uses of the same crop. The rates were meant to reflect the differences in price that produce would have commanded on the open market but for having been ruined in a disaster.

In 1998, organic farmers suffered a serious setback. The Secretary of Agriculture issued regulations specifying that "in spite of differences in yield or values," separate rates would not be established for "crops with different cultural practices, such as organically or hydroponically grown." Id. at *4. In Partlo v. Johanns, the court determined that there was no duty on the Secretary to establish distinct rates.

Organic farming has a number of health and environmental benefits. The Partlo decision could make organic farming less attractive for farmers and consumers alike. In her comment titled, "A Tough Row to Hoe: What Partlo v. Johanns Means for the Organic Food Industry," Karen Campion analyzes the court's explanation of why the plaintiff's Equal Protection rights were not violated and how the Administrative Procedures Act was not violated.