The pale cyst nematode’s infestation of some Idaho potato-growing soil has caused considerable legal activity.
Eastern Idaho potato growers filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture to force the department to lift a ban on their potatoes from being sold in interstate commerce. The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service enacted the quarantine after pale cyst nematodes were found in the soil of Eastern Idaho.
The lawsuit to try and force the USDA to lift the quarantine was filed last year. The government agency tried to get a U.S. District Court judge to dismiss the case, but the judge ruled in favor of the farmers earlier this month so that the lawsuit can proceed and be tried in federal court.
The judge did dismiss claims against the Idaho State Department of Agriculture because complaints against the state cannot be tried in a federal court, he said. But those complaints could be revised in state court.
What is at stake is the ability for the Idaho growers to sell potatoes and other crops that might carry the pale cyst nematode outside a small region where it was first identified as being present in the U.S. back in 2006. The nematode is so destructive that potato production can be cut up to 80 percent.
Other countries slapped a ban on the import of Idaho potatoes originally because of fear that the nematode might infect their land. With the USDA quarantine in place, most countries have been back to accepting Idaho potatoes, although Japan still hangs on to banning potatoes from the state.
The quarantine has been in place on about 17,500 acres with some known as having been infested at some point and buffer zone acres that could be or might become infested. There has been various activity to rid the soil of the pale cyst nematode, but all the reports about the court cast fail to confirm that the cyst has been eradicated.
The farmers in the lawsuit are wanting restitution from all indications because they claim the quarantine was illegally put in place by the USDA, overriding state authority, and hurting them financially. The lawsuit claimants contend government authorities failed to follow federal environment laws in imposing actions without proper study.