A federal judge in Minnesota recently issued an order slowing line speeds under the New Swine Inspection Program. However, on the same day, attorneys for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in California filed a 45-page answer to an amended complaint by other plaintiffs also wishing to bring down the program.
The USDA brief was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, and USDA responded for Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Sandra Eskin.
The new secretary of agriculture and his top deputy for food safety said in the brief that "defendants deny any and all allegations in the Second Amended Complaint not expressly admitted herein to which a response is deemed required." The fact that they are defending the new swine inspection program in California on the same day it is being examined in Minnesota is significant.
USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service adopted the final modernization rule for swine in October 2019, and the lawsuits followed in 2020. The United Food and Commercial Workers unions sued in Minnesota's U.S. District Court.
On March 31, Federal Judge Joan N. Ericksen issued an opinion limiting line speeds to 1,106 hogs per hour but leaving the remainder of the modernization program intact. She delayed her order by 90 days, so it will become effective around July 1.
In the Northern California case, the plaintiffs are the Center for Food Safety, the Humane Farming Association, Food and Water Watch, and pork consumer Robin Mangini. They sued USDA in January 2020, under the basis of claiming the New Swine Inspection System amounts to a "radical transformation of federal swine inspection protocols."
The plaintiffs are proceeding with a case management conference, which was scheduled for April 16, but then rescheduled to occur no later than July 22, 2021.