Sacramento, California – The California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers (CANGC) and the Oregon Association of Nurseries (OAN) today filed a suit in U.S. District Court in Columbia, South Carolina, seeking to overturn a new regulation aimed squarely at blocking California and Oregon nursery growers from shipping their plants to that state.
The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) maintains strict regulations related to Phytophthora ramorum (sometimes referred to as Sudden Oak Death) to protect forest health, landscapes, and nurseries across the country. Nurseries in Oregon and California have an outstanding record of compliance with these rules.
However last year, the South Carolina Assembly passed legislation that limits California and Oregon growers from shipping to that state unless they comply with additional inspection, documentation and advance notice requirements which overstep the federal rules.
States are prohibited from taking such steps under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. Plant Protection Act, which gives the federal government the exclusive power to protect plants sold in interstate commerce.
The suit, which names the State of South Carolina and the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, challenges that state’s regulation as unconstitutional. “It is disappointing that the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, which runs programs to promote its home-state products for sale in other states as well as at home, chose to follow this path,” said Robert Dolezal, CANGC’s executive vice president.
California and Oregon are leading states for production of nursery products, shipping ornamental plants, trees, shrubs, bulbs, and other horticultural products to the nation and the world. Nurseries in Oregon and California have had their shipments blocked or plants destroyed as a result of the regulation.
“California nurseries are fully complying with the federal APHIS order,” Dolezal continued. “Protecting our customers in other states and shipping clean plants is in the best interest of everyone in our industry.”
OAN executive director John Aguirre agreed. “Nurseries take very seriously the threat of plant diseases,” he said. “Over 70% of Oregon’s nursery sales are destined for buyers outside our state. Oregon growers cannot allow states to violate federal law in an effort to close their markets to our growers.”
There is specific precedent for the plaintiffs’ action. In 2004, the California Association of Nursery and Garden Centers successfully sued the State of Kentucky under similar circumstances. “Despite that precedent, our polite requests were ignored and we had no other option but to defend our nurseries from being cut off from their customers in South Carolina,” Dolezal said.
“We are disappointed that we were forced to take this action, but the impact on our members’ businesses left us no choice,” said Dolezal.
The two associations seek injunctive relief to invalidate the regulation. They expect a swift ruling from the U.S. District Court in light of the clear-cut law and precedent.
The plaintiffs in the suit are represented by attorneys Jim Lehman and Daniel D’Alberto of Nelson, Mullins, Riley & Scarborough, LLP of Columbia, South Carolina, and Neil Shapiro of the Law Offices of Neil Shapiro in Monterey, California.
For more information about Sudden Oak Death (Phytophthora ramorum), go to http://www.aphis.usda.gov/plant_health/plant_pest_info/pram/index.shtml.
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The California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers was founded in 1911 as a statewide trade organization for nursery growers. It is headquartered in Sacramento, California. California nurseries and floriculture producers are the second largest agricultural commodity produced in the Golden State, after dairy, making it the largest state for shipments of nursery products in the United States. The Association is the primary advocate for the California nursery community in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.
The Oregon Association of Nurseries, based in Wilsonville, represents more than 1,300 wholesale growers, retailers, landscapers and suppliers. Oregon’s ornamental horticulture industry is the state’s largest agricultural sector, with annual sales of $820 million. For information visit www.oan.org or call 503-682-5089.
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