Ackerman v. United States Department of Agriculture, No. 19-2056 (6th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
An agency within the Department of Agriculture summarily approved a proposed plan for dry-bean crop insurance in Michigan based upon the mistaken belief that the terms of the proposed endorsement for the Michigan policy were identical to the terms of the endorsement for a Minnesota policy that it had approved the year before. The terms of the two endorsements were different because the Michigan endorsement contained a different pricing mechanism for determining the beans’ “harvest price” than the mechanism the agency had approved as part of the Minnesota endorsement. That difference later caused significant harm to Michigan farmers who had purchased the coverage, some of whom filed suit. In the district court, the government compounded the agency’s mistake when it mistakenly told the district court that the pricing mechanisms in the Michigan and Minnesota endorsements were the same. Based in part upon that representation, the district court granted the government summary judgment.
The Sixth Circuit reversed, noting that “the government’s brief unhelpfully elides both mistakes rather than acknowledge them but Plaintiffs’ counsel on appeal has made the existence of those mistakes clear enough.” The agency violated 7 C.F.R. 400.701 when it found that the Michigan proposal presented only “non-significant changes” to the Minnesota one; the mistake was apparently inadvertent.