USDA Moves to Dismiss Lawsuit Alleging it Owes Crop Disaster Payments

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), its Secretary Sonny Perdue, and Farm Service Agency Administrator Richard Fordyce filed a motion on Wednesday to dismiss a Middle District of Alabama complaint claiming that the department owed funds to two farms due to the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP).

The defendants’ memorandum accompanying the motion said that the court “lacks subject matter jurisdiction” and that the plaintiffs in the complaint did not adequately “state a claim upon which relief may be granted.” They said the plaintiffs did not plead their case under Congress’ administrative review process for handling challenges to the USDA’s decisions regarding the NAP.

The memorandum stated: “This review scheme provides for federal court review of final agency decisions after they have been fully exhausted. Plaintiffs cannot show the existence of subject matter jurisdiction for the tort, contractual, and Florida state-law legal theories that they chose to plead in their Complaint instead of filing an appeal pursuant to the review scheme established by congress.” The defendants said the complaint does not include any mention of the NAD administrative scheme or evidence that the plaintiffs submitted claim issues.

The plaintiffs, Chris Love and RWE Farms, LLC filed the class-action complaint at the end of May claiming that they did not receive payments after submitting a claim for specific crops, including seedless watermelons, collard greens, and cabbage, which were lost because of excessive heat, moisture, and cold. Both farms submitted applications to the NAP, were approved, and paid the applicable premium. They asked for relief for themselves and other farms or farmers in similar situations.

The USDA, Sonny Perdue, and Richard Fordyce are represented by Attorney Louis F. Franklin, Sr. and Assistant Attorney James J. DuBois with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The plaintiffs are represented by Buntin, Etheredge & Fowler; McCallum Methvin & Terrell; and Heninger Garrison Davis.