Judge Dismisses Suit in Costly Organic Crops Case

Aug 15 2013

Lincoln Journal Star (NE)

Evrett Lunquist

Evrett Lunquist

Evrett Lunquist of Raymond has won a summary judgment in a civil dispute involving production of organic crops.

Lancaster County District Judge Paul Merritt’s dismissal of a multi-million dollar complaint filed against Lunquist, an organic inspector, by organic producer Paul Rosberg of Randolph could be the end of a legal battle that dates to 2011.

Rosberg had accused Lunquist, who had done inspection work on his farm from 2003-07, of making false statements about him and his farming operation and committing both libel and fraud.

Lunquist said he stepped forward later as a citizen, not as an inspector, to report potential fraud by Rosberg to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Court records show that USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service revoked Rosberg’s organic certification for five years in 2011.

“Rosberg accused me of writing something false about him,” Lunquist said in a telephone interview, “and the reality of it is that it was true. And that’s affirmed now by the court, and it was affirmed previously by USDA.”

In a 15-page verdict, Merritt said Rosberg, who chose to function as his own attorney, had failed to provide evidence to support his claims.

Lunquist, better known in the Lincoln area for operating Common Good Farm with wife Ruth Chantry, said he was relieved by the outcome.

“We’re very pleased, very glad that this decision is behind us now,” he said. “And we were confident all along. But having never been in this situation before in a courtroom, it was a little nerve-wracking and mysterious.”

In an earlier Journal Star story, a prepared statement from the Open Harvest food cooperative in Lincoln described the case as “the first known instance of a farmer bringing suit against an organic inspector.”

Open Harvest has been among many organizations and individuals in the area who have helped Lunquist and Chantry with legal costs that recently topped $40,000.

Lunquist said he and Chantry felt overwhelmed by that show of support. “They’ve helped us out significantly, financially, as well as with a morale boost.”

Merritt said he would rule Aug. 26 on a motion from Lunquist’s attorney to recover legal costs.

Reached later Wednesday afternoon, Rosberg said he would appeal Merritt’s decision.

He said Merritt failed to properly consider information he included in an affidavit. “If there’s an issue in conflict, you can’t give anybody a summary judgment.”

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