Posted December 18, 2013
Evrett Lundquist, an organic certification inspector who was facing a $7.6 million lawsuit, won summary judgment and the judge recently ordered the plaintiff to pay a portion of his attorneys’ fees.
The story begins when Lundquist, a part-time inspector for farms seeking USDA organic certification notified the National Organic Program (NOP) that he believed Paul Rosberg’s farm was not in compliance with certification rules, according to Steven McFadden of Call of the Land, here. The NOP investigated and confirmed that Rosberg’s operation failed to qualify for organic certification.
Lundquist “was acting on his own,” but felt “honor bound by the International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA) Code of Ethics to report suspected fraud.” Although Lundquist’s complaint “should have been kept confidential” his identity was mistakenly released in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
Rosberg sued Lundquist and International Certification Services, Inc., his employer, for $7.6 million in damages. Rosberg represented himself, pro se, as he has done in several legal actions. Rosberg is currently incarcerated in Nebraska after he was indicted by a federal grand jury for selling misbranded meat to Omaha Public Schools. He was also arrested for hiring two hit men to murder two witnesses in the meat trial.
While Lundquist acted “as a private citizen when he initially reported the violations,” he incurred legal fees of over $43,000 and asked for the NOP’s assistance in the case. The NOP “declined to help with legal costs.”
Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Administrator David Shipman, now retired, responded at the hearing: “We made a mistake … It is really regrettable. I have looked at this case a number of times and sat with legal counsel trying to figure out how we can in some way help that individual…but the avenue to actually help in a financial way, I have not found a path forward on that yet. It is an extremely regrettable situation, and we are aware of it.”
A year earlier, the agency published a statement on how complaints are handled.
For more information on the National Organic Program, please visit the National Agricultural Law Center’s website here.