USDA posted a notice in the Federal Register yesterday, announcing it was delaying further rule-making in promulgating a Federal Milk Market Order in California.
The reason for the delay is whether the administrative law judge who oversaw the 40-day hearing last year was legally appointed. An unrelated case before the Supreme Court calls into question whether administrative law judges are federal agency employees or “inferior officers” of the government. If they are the latter, they must be appointed rather than hired.
Last week, the California Department of Food and Agriculture cited the soon-anticipated California Federal Order final rule announcement as a reason for declining to grant a hearing for a 35¢/cwt increase in state milk prices.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case this term, which ends June 30. Waiting for the Supreme Court to makes its decision further delays the California Federal Order decision, and it’s unclear what would happen if the Court decides Administrative Law judges must be appointed.