Friend-of-the-Court Briefs Filed by Ag Groups

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Court documents filed by the American Farm Bureau Federation on behalf of its members, in conjunction with two other agriculture groups, proved vital in communicating the concerns of farmers and ranchers in a lawsuit challenging an Agriculture Department program to allow the use of Conservation Reserve Program acreage as a critical feed source for livestock.
calendar icon 23 July 2008
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AFBF filed two friend-of-the-court briefs, along with National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the National Pork Producers Council. The first document filed by the agricultural groups provided details from 29 farmers and ranchers on the management decisions and investments they made in preparation to take part in the program, which was announced in May.

“We believe our friend-of-the-court brief, which included vital information provided by farmers and ranchers, who in good faith moved ahead with plans to participate in the critical feed use program, was instrumental in preventing the program being shot down right out of the gate,” said AFBF General Counsel Julie Anna Potts. “We made sure that the decisions and investments made by farmers to participate in this program were fully and fairly considered.”

The first brief from the agricultural groups described preparatory steps and investments taken by farmers and ranchers, such as moving cattle, digging wells, erecting fences and hiring labor, to utilize the temporary haying and grazing opportunities provided by the critical feed use program. The second brief addressed possible remedies that could be taken to consider the positions of the affected farmers and ranchers.

Parties to the lawsuit have been ordered to appear before the judge for further arguments on Thursday morning. Meanwhile, a temporary restraining order against the program remains in effect. A decision is expected after that proceeding.

The suit was brought by a wildlife group, which challenged the USDA’s critical feed use program, claiming USDA failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act in authorizing it. The critical feed use program would give eligible farmers and ranchers permission for “special, one-time” hay and forage use of certain CRP acreage after the primary nesting season ends for grass-nesting birds.

The program was developed with the goal of providing some relief for livestock producers by reducing record-high feed costs. According to USDA estimates, the initiative would generate around 18 million tons of hay, worth approximately $1.2 billion. The critical feed use initiative is not related to emergency use of CRP land.

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