Agricultural and commerce groups celebrated a Supreme Court ruling on June 28 reducing the power of federal agencies in determining legal regulations against producers, businesses, various industries and farming operations.

Cooper david
Managing Editor / Progressive Cattle

The high court ruled 6-3 in favor of empowering the courts to interpret laws carried out by agencies in the executive branch such as the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or even the Department of Health and Human Services, rather than determine on their own how each agency applies expertise within the law.

While there were two cases before the court, Relentless Inc. v. Department of Commerce, and Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, the arguments amounted to a reversal of the landmark Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council decision from the court in 1984 – what’s known as the Chevron doctrine. Under that standard, if Congress has not specifically addressed a legal question or detail in regulatory policy, the agency had full authority under the courts to interpret that statute within a reasonable standard.

In a 35-page ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts called that deference to Chevron a direct violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), a law that federal agencies follow in addition to instructions preset for the courts to review agency regulatory action. The APA, Roberts wrote, “makes clear that agency interpretations of statutes – like agency interpretations of the Constitution – are not entitled to deference. Under the APA, it thus remains the responsibility of the court to decide whether the law means what the agency says.”

Supporters of the Chevron standard said agencies with their scientific and research capabilities have the greatest ability to determine how agency policy is set and enforced. But Roberts said the rules of Congress and constitutional responsibilities set out for the courts also include the need to handle technical statutory questions.


“Perhaps most fundamentally, Chevron’s presumption is misguided because agencies have no special competence in resolving statutory ambiguities. Courts do,” Roberts wrote.

“The framers, as noted, anticipated that courts would often confront statutory ambiguities and expected that courts would resolve them by exercising independent legal judgment. And even Chevron itself reaffirmed that ‘[t]he judiciary is the final authority on issues of statutory construction’ and recognized that ‘in the absence of an administrative interpretation, it is ‘necessary’ for a court to ‘impose its own construction on the statute.’”

National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) President Mark Eisele was one of the officials applauding the reversal of Chevron, saying in a press statement that it restores regulatory authority back to Congress and the judicial branch.

“Our elected officials in Congress should be making our laws, not unelected bureaucrats at federal agencies,” said Eisele. “Cattle producers have experienced numerous instances of federal agencies enacting overreaching regulations on our farms and ranches, exceeding their authority granted by Congress. I am glad the Supreme Court is reining in these federal agencies and putting power back in the hands of those elected to represent us in Washington.”

“In the last four decades, Congress has ceded authority to unelected federal bureaucrats who make the regulations that impact farmers and ranchers every day,” said NCBA Chief Counsel Mary-Thomas Hart. “Long term, this decision will impact almost every regulation that NCBA has worked on. The decision puts Congress back in the driver’s seat for crafting policy, reins in the administrative state and strengthens accountability by ensuring that the people we elect are the ones crafting our nation’s laws.”

But in an expansive interview on the Beltway Beef podcast, Hart acknowledged that it will not be an easy transition to the duties of Congress. “I think there’s going to be some reluctance at the legislative branch to begin because you have a lot of people elected to Congress under this guise to fund administrative agencies. We have a Congress that isn’t used to taking a lot of tough votes, a lot of politically risky votes. There will be some growing pains I think within the legislative branch and on Capitol Hill.”