Court grants Federal Crop Insurance's motion for summary judgment in case over almond crop failure

By Chandra Lye | Jan 4, 2019

SACRAMENTO – A magistrate judge on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California has granted summary judgment to the manager of the federal crop insurance program in a dispute over a 2015 almond crop failure.

“The court cannot overturn the determination as arbitrary and capricious as the Risk Management Agency’s ‘decision was based on a consideration of relevant factors and there is no clear error of judgment,’” Magistrate Judge Stanley A. Boone wrote in the Dec. 28 order.

The dispute arose over the crop, grown by plaintiff Kewal Singh, in the Central Valley of California. Singh claims that heat conditions led to the failure in 2015 and he should receive insurance money. He alleges the defendant Federal Crop Insurance Corp. improperly denied crop insurance indemnity under a federally reinsured policy.

Rain and Hail Insurance Service denied Singh’s claim and he requested a Good Farming Practices determination from the Risk Management Agency (RMA). 

“RMA upheld RHIS’s assessment that plaintiff did not follow good farming practices due to his failure to provide irrigation water to the almonds at appropriate times and amounts in the 2014 crop year, which in turn impacted the 2015 crop,” according to the court decision. 

Plaintiff then filed a lawsuit “seeking judicial review and declaratory relief pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act and the Federal Crop Insurance Act,” the court decision stated.

“Defendant maintains that despite plaintiff carrying the burden under the insurance policy guidelines to document or demonstrate good irrigation practices, plaintiff relies on a faulty calculation without directing the court to any evidence in the record to support it, ‘apart from the unsigned declaration of a crop adviser who simply accepted the calculation without further support or elaboration,’” the court decision stated. 

“The court finds the agency’s calculation of the water available to plaintiff’s orchard in 2014 was a reasonable determination based on an industry-accepted formula published in the scientific literature, and calculated using figures with an established basis in the record,” the court decision stated.

“Additionally, plaintiff appears to accept this range as appropriate, as he states in his moving papers that '[a]s noted in the RMA determination letter, the required amount of water ranges from 3.6 – 4.5' acre-feet per acre, and ‘[t]his range is extremely important to the determination,’ because plaintiff’s calculation of 3.94 acre-feet per acre would fall within this range,” the court decision stated.

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