Attorney General Sues USDA Over Gender Ideology Adherence For School Lunch Funds

Attorney General Sues USDA Over Gender Ideology Adherence For School Lunch Funds

By Corinne Murdock |

On Tuesday, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for requiring schools to adopt gender ideology practices in order to receive free or reduced lunch funds. About half of Arizona’s children rely on those meals. 

The federal government supplements states with funds to provide free or reduced meals for low-income K-12 students. As AZ Free News reported, the Biden administration updated its Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) guidelines for its Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to clarify that protected classes within anti-discrimination policy included sexual orientation and gender identity. In the context of Biden’s correlating executive order, the guidelines would likely require schools to allow bathrooms, locker rooms, and sports teams open to gender identity. 

Brnovich asserted in a press release that the Biden administration’s actions are unlawful. 

“USDA Choice applies to beef at the market, not to our children’s restrooms,” said Brnovich. “This threat of the Biden administration to withhold nutritional assistance for students whose schools do not submit to its extreme agenda is unlawful and despicable.”

Arizona’s lawsuit is part of a 22-state coalition led by Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery. The remainder of the coalition includes Indiana, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia. 

Altogether, the 22 states receive over $28.6 billion in SNAP benefits for over 15.4 million individuals.

The states’ complaint asserted that President Joe Biden directed federal agencies to rewrite federal law in order to align with his January 2021 executive order to “prevent and combat discrimination on the basis of gender identity.” The lawsuit further asserted that the USDA circumvented the mandatory legal process outlined in the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) to implement their new guidelines. 

The states described the new guidelines as “arbitrary, capricious, [and] an abuse of discretion.” Specifically, their lawsuit alleged that the Biden administration failed to observe procedures required by law for guideline updates, misinterpreted Title IX, violated anti-commandeering and non-delegation doctrines, and violated the Constitution’s Spending Clause, First Amendment, Tenth Amendment, and separation of powers.

“To be clear, the States do not deny benefits based on a household member’s sexual orientation or gender identity. But the States do challenge the unlawful and unnecessary new obligations and liabilities that the Memoranda and Final Rule attempt to impose — obligations that apparently stretch as far as ending sex-separated living facilities and athletics and mandating the use of biologically inaccurate preferred pronouns,” read the complaint. “Collectively, the Memoranda and Final Rule inappropriately expand the law far beyond what statutory text, regulatory requirements, judicial precedent, and the U.S. Constitution permit.”

Brnovich’s decision to join the coalition lawsuit wasn’t the only action Arizona officials took in response to the USDA guidelines. Earlier this month, Congresswoman Debbie Lesko (R-AZ-08) introduced legislation to nullify the gender ideology compliance requirement. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Arizona Produce Company Resolves Issues With USDA

Arizona Produce Company Resolves Issues With USDA

By Terri Jo Neff |

One Arizona produce company has resolved a reparation order issued last year by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in favor of a seller, while two other companies have yet to make payment.

According to the USDA, Rio Rico-based Lorex Produce LLC has satisfied a $48,826 reparation order issued under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) in February 2020 involving unpaid produce transactions with a Florida seller. As a result, Lorex Produce can continue operating in the produce industry upon applying for and being issued a license under PACA.

In addition, company officials Francisco Alejandro Lopez Rodriguez and Enok Aristiga Ayala may now be employed by or affiliated with any PACA licensee.

The USDA’s PACA Division is part of the Fair Trade Practices Program in the Agricultural Marketing Service. It provides an options for handling disputes involving contractual obligations in the buying and selling of fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables produce transactions.

The USDA is authorized to suspend a PACA license -or impose sanctions on an unlicensed business- for failure to pay a reparations award. The agency can also prohibit sole proprietors, partners, members, managers, officers, directors or major stockholders of any sanctioned company from being employed by or affiliated with any PACA licensee without securing USDA approval.

Last week’s announcement that Lorex Produce has fully satisfied its PACA order leaves two other Arizona companies on the reparation list.

Perfect Harvest Inc., operating in Nogales, was sanctioned last year for failing to pay a $243,240 reparation award in favor of an in-state seller. As of the issuance date of the order, Jorge A. Mercado was listed as the officer, director and major stockholder of the business. He may not be employed by or affiliated with any PACA licensee without securing USDA approval.

The other company, Arizona Lemons LLC, operated out of Phoenix. It is the subject of a $16,776 reparation award in favor of a Minnesota seller who was not paid. Company officials Martha E. Bombela and Jose R. Partida may not be employed by or affiliated with any PACA licensee without securing USDA approval.

When the USDA announced its sanctions against Lorex Produce last year, the agency noted it “continues to enforce the prompt and full payment for produce while protecting the rights of sellers and buyers in the marketplace.” In the past three years, more than 3,600 claims were resolved involving more than $104 million.