Burnette Foods, Inc. v. United States Department of Agriculture, No. 18-1541 (6th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
Burnette handles canned tart cherries. Burnette’s canned product has a shelf life of about one year. Many other cherry handlers freeze their cherries for longer shelf life. Because of the shelf-life disparity, Burnette is at a disadvantage when the USDA Cherry Industry Administrative Board caps cherry sales. Burnette filed a petition with the USDA, seeking a declaration that CherrCo, an organization that markets for its members and sets minimum prices for tart cherry products, was a “sales constituency.” Many Board members were affiliated with CherrCo; some were from the same district. Under 7 C.F.R. 930.20(g), Board members come from nine districts. In a district with multiple Board members, only one member may be from a given sales constituency. A judicial officer affirmed an ALJ’s determination that CherrCo was not a “sales constituency.” The district court reversed, reasoning that CherrCo’s members sign agreements that allow it to process, handle, pack, store, dry, manufacture, and sell its members’ cherries. CherrCo is listed as the seller for all orders. The Sixth Circuit reversed. A “sales constituency” is: [A] common marketing organization or brokerage firm or individual representing a group of handlers and growers. An organization which receives consignments of cherries and does not direct where the consigned cherries are sold is not a sales constituency. There was substantial evidence to support the administrative finding that CherrCo receives consignments of cherries but does not direct where the consigned cherries are sold.