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California, Oregon nurseries sue South Carolina

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Federal suit asks South Carolina to overturn regulation concerning plant shipments.

Kelli Rodda | March 9, 2010

The California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers (CANGC) and the Oregon Association of Nurseries (OAN) are suing the State of South Carolina and the South Carolina Department of Agriculture. The suit seeks to overturn a new regulation aimed at blocking California and Oregon nursery growers from shipping plants to that state.
Last year, the South Carolina Assembly passed legislation that limits California and Oregon growers from shipping to that state unless they comply with additional inspection, documentation and advance notice requirements which overstep the federal rules concerning Phytophthora ramorum. Nurseries in Oregon and California have had their shipments blocked or plants destroyed as a result of the regulation.
The suit challenges that state’s regulation as unconstitutional. “It is disappointing that the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, which runs programs to promote its home-state products for sale in other states as well as at home, chose to follow this path,” said Robert Dolezal, CANGC’s executive vice president.
States are prohibited from taking such steps under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. Plant Protection Act, which gives the federal government the exclusive power to protect plants sold in interstate commerce.
“Nurseries take very seriously the threat of plant diseases,” said OAN executive director John Aguirre. “Over 70 percent of Oregon's nursery sales are destined for buyers outside our state. Oregon growers cannot allow states to violate federal law in an effort to close their markets to our growers.”
In 2004, the CANGC successfully sued the State of Kentucky under similar circumstances. “Despite that precedent, our polite requests were ignored and we had no other option but to defend our nurseries from being cut off from their customers in South Carolina,” Dolezal said.
 

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