Federal Judge Vacates USDA Rule that Exempted Medium-Sized CAFOs from NEPA Review Since 2016

U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia Colleen Kollar-Kotelly vacated a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) rule promulgated in 2016 that categorically exempted medium-sized concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) from environmental reviews before receiving public funding. The 2018 case, brought by Dakota Rural Action and other plaintiffs, argued that FSA failed to provide adequate public notice or evidence-based justification for the exemption when it finalized the rule in 2016. Judge Kollar-Kotelly found that “not only did FSA fail to provide notice-and-comment rulemaking, but it also evidently failed to undertake the reasoned analysis required by [the National Environmental Policy Act]” (NEPA) and that “the severity of these errors require vacatur.” Medium-sized CAFOs now again will be required to undergo environmental review under NEPA before receiving federal funds.