A California federal court has denied the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by environmental organizations challenging USDA’s issuance of a guidance document about the use of pesticides in compost without first having solicited public comment. Ctr. for Envt’l Health v. Vilsack, No. 15-1690 (N.D. Cal., order entered September 29).

The Center for Food Safety (CFS), Center for Environmental Health and Beyond Pesticides challenged USDA’s actions on Administrative Procedures Act (APA) grounds, arguing the agency violated federal procedures by not allowing a formal rulemaking and public comment period about a guidance document permitting the use of compost with pesticides in the production of organic food. The court found that the organizations had sufficiently stated their claim under the APA and had standing to sue. “The agency’s unilateral action to allow compost contaminated with pesticides in organic production was contrary to federal rulemaking requirements as well as contrary to the high standards of organic integrity,” George Kimbrell, CFS counsel, said in a September 30, 2015, press release. “We will continue to represent the organic community in holding USDA accountable.”