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Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida v. Veneman

289 F.3d 89 (2002)

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Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida v. Veneman

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia

289 F.3d 89 (2002)

Facts

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) (defendant), headed by Secretary Veneman, was tasked with regulating the supply of sugar under the Food Security Act. The USDA instituted a payment-in-kind (PIK) program under which it would buy excess supplies of sugar from sugar farmers. The USDA set a payment cap on bids from individual farmers. This cap gave a significant advantage to sugar-beet farmers who often grew their crops on a much smaller scale, and therefore could more easily submit bids below the cap. The USDA did not hold a notice-and-comment period before promulgating that rule, as required by the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida (SCGC) (plaintiff) sued, claiming that the rule was promulgated in violation of the APA and should be invalidated. The USDA claimed that, although skipping the notice-and-comment process was a violation of the APA, the requirement could be waived under the harmless-error test. The USDA’s rationale was that the SCGC did not make any proposals for how the rule could be changed. The district court upheld the rule.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Silberman, J.)

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