The ban on Argentinian lemons will not be reinstated after growers lose the lawsuit filed in May 2017, trying to keep the imports out of the United States. The lawsuit filed by the U.S. Citrus Science Council, along with five growers, claimed that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) ignored science and based their reasons to lift the ban on politics.
“That decision shocked us quite frankly,” said California Citrus Mutual President Joel Nelsen, “[the judge] deferred to USDA on everything. It is extremely frustrating.”
U.S. District Judge Lawrence O’Neill found that the U.S. government was not operating in the interest of foreign policy concerns when it lifted the ban on lemon imports coming from Argentina. “He went down step, by step, by step, challenging and overturning our arguments relative to what USDA had proposed during the process,” Nelsen stated.
The lawsuit claimed the USDA did not properly analyze the number of lemons Argentina would export or how that could affect the U.S. citrus industry. Argentina is a sizable lemon producer in the world market and could potentially ship up to 22,000 tons of lemons annually to the U.S.
The ban on Argentinian lemons began in 1947 because of plant pests and diseases found in the country. That ban was lifted in 2000 but quickly reinstated the following year after a lawsuit. The complaint issued in the most recent lawsuit stated that the size of the industry in California will “provide ample host material for pests arriving from Argentina, and thereby facilitate potentially catastrophic spread in the United States.”
Nelsen speculated as to when the first shipments of lemons from Argentina will be seen in the U.S. “We’ll probably begin to see some Argentine lemons in the Northeast part of the United States for the first two years. We’ll see them come in here probably late April.”