Food & Water Watch has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Farm Service Agency seeking vacatur of agency decisions that guaranteed loans and allowed construction of a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) in the Choptank River watershed on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Food & Water Watch v. United States Dep’t of Agric., No. 17-1714 (D.D.C., filed August 23, 2017). The CAFO is located upstream from the Chesapeake Bay, where the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and surrounding states have undertaken extensive agricultural pollution cleanup efforts. Among other allegations, the complaint asserts that USDA’s environmental assessment found that the CAFO’s density would conform to industry standards but that the actual density is nearly double those standards, resulting in higher-than-average waste concentration, air and water pollution.
The plaintiff argues that the agencies (i) failed to consider adequate alternatives; (ii) failed to address biological resources, groundwater, surface water or air quality; (iii) improperly relied on proposed mitigation measures; (iv) failed to consider the cumulative impacts of the CAFO; and (v) improperly made a finding of no significant environmental impact. In addition to seeking vacatur, the plaintiff also seeks injunctive and declarative relief.