Washington, D.C. -- On Friday, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied the USDA Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) motion to dismiss Food & Water Watch’s case against it, paving the way for the case to proceed. The case challenges the FSA’s improper finding that the large broiler chicken factory farm it was financing would not significantly impact the environment—a finding that made it possible for the agency to guarantee a loan of more than $1 million to construct and operate the facility with minimal environmental safeguards. The federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires agencies like the FSA to assess the environmental impacts of certain actions, including loan guarantees to large factory farms.
This environmental review is critical when it comes to constructing more factory farms in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, where EPA and states are spending billions to clean up pollution from industrial agriculture and other sources.
The Court also granted Food & Water Watch’s motion to compel FSA to add key documents to the record before the court, which will allow the organization, and the court, to consider whether the agency considered all relevant information before it determined that the facility would have no significant environmental impact.
The Court’s key findings included that Food & Water Watch has standing and its claims are not moot, because FSA has ongoing obligations and authority related to its loan guarantee. As a result, Food & Water Watch can still obtain meaningful relief if the organization prevails on its NEPA claim.
“The Court’s Order is an important step towards ultimately showing that FSA is short-changing required environmental reviews to enable financing to the factory farm industry,” said Tarah Heinzen, staff attorney for Food & Water Watch. “But USDA should be protecting farmers and the environment, not meat industry profits.”
The suit alleges that the FSA’s review fell far short of what NEPA requires in an environmental assessment, including that it failed to adequately consider the cumulative effects of its lending actions and the growth of the poultry industry on the Eastern Shore. The FSA has issued dozens of loans and loan guarantees to chicken producers in Maryland, amounting to more than $47 million in financing between 2009 and 2015.
The facility has the capacity to house 192,000 chickens at a time, producing more than one million chickens and 1,000 tons of chicken waste each year.
Food & Water Watch is represented by Earthrise Law Center at Lewis & Clark Law School in the suit.
Food & Water Watch champions healthy food and clean water for all. We stand up to corporations that put profits before people, and advocate for a democracy that improves people’s lives and protects our environment.
Contact: Darcey Rakestraw, 202-683-2467; [email protected]