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Case Memo

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Re: Chocolate Manufacturers Association of the United States v. John R. Block, Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture; Samuel J. Cornelius, Food and Nutrition Service and U.S. Department of Agriculture 755 F. 2nd 1098 (1985)
Facts of the case:
The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), published a rule, for comment, that proposed a maximum sugar content specifically for authorized cereals used in the Special Supplement Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC Program) ( Chocolate Manufacturers Association v. Block). Under WIC, the USDA designs food packages reflecting the different nutritional needs of women, infants, and children and provides grants to state or local agencies to distribute cash or vouchers to qualifying individuals in accordance with the Departmental regulations regarding the quantity and type of food ( Chocolate Manufacturers Association v. Block). In addition to the rule, the USDA published a preamble which discussed the general purpose of the rule and problems associated with high sugar foods. Neither the proposed rule nor its preamble discussed sugar in relation to flavored milk, although the rule did include flavored milk in the list of approved food packages for women and children without special dietary needs ( Chocolate Manufacturers Association v. Block). Responding to public comments, the USDA deleted flavored milk from the approved packages list in the final rule (Chocolate Manufacturers Association v. Block). The Chocolate Manufacturers Association (CMA) sought relief from the rule in district court arguing first that the USDA did not provide notice that this disallowance of flavored milk would be considered, and second that the USDA gave no reasoned justification for changing its position about the nutritional value of chocolate in the food distributed under its authority (Chocolate Manufacturers Association v. Block). The district court denied CMA’s request for relief, and CMA appealed.
Key Issues:
The main issue in this case is how to judge the adequacy of the notice when the proposal it describes is replaced by a final rule which reaches a conclusion exactly opposite to that proposed, on the basis of comments received from parties representing only a single view of a controversy (Chocolate Manufacturers Association v. Block).
The court held it believed that there was insufficient notice that the deletion of flavored milk from the WIC Program would be considered if adverse comments were received and, therefore, that the affected parties did not receive a fair opportunity to contribute to the administrative rulemaking process (Chocolate Manufacturers Association v. Block). The court reversed the judgment of the district court and remanded the case to the administrative agency (USDA) with instructions to reopen the comment period and thereby afford interested parties a fair opportunity to comment on the proposed changes in the rule (Chocolate Manufacturers Association v. Block).
The court stated that an agency does not have the authority to establish a rule contrary to its original proposal simply because it receives suggestions to change it during the comment period. It said an interested party must have been alerted by the notice to the possibility of the changes eventually adopted from the comments (Chocolate Manufacturers Association v. Block). The court said the preamble had discussed, in detail, the sugar content of juice and cereal but not of flavored milk and the preamble had stated that flavored milk was permitted in the food packages for women and children without special dietary needs (Chocolate Manufacturers Association v. Block). The court reasoned that this specificity, together with total silence concerning any suggestion of eliminating flavored milk, strongly indicated that flavored milk was not an issue and that at the time the proposed rulemaking was published, neither CMA nor the public could have had any indication from the history of the WIC Program or other food distribution programs that flavored milk was not part of an acceptable diet for women and children without special dietary needs (Chocolate Manufacturers Association v. Block). Lastly, the court stated the total effect of the history of the use of flavored milk, the preamble discussion, and the proposed rule could have led interested persons only to conclude that a change in flavored milk would not be considered (Chocolate Manufacturers Association v. Block).
The 1980s was a time period that saw great social, economic, and general change. Drugs became a serious problem in the '80s. This was also a time period that saw many changes in technology in America. Martin Luther King Day was officially observed for the first time as a federal holiday in the United States during this decade.
Implications on Public Administration:
This case effected public administration, in that, it called into question adequacy of notice when an agency’s final rule is the opposite of its proposed rule due to public comments. It allowed the courts to emphasis the importance of adequate notice and the importance of allowing all interested parties the opportunity to comment on proposed changes to a rule.
Chocolate Manufacturers Association of the United States v. John R. Block, Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture; Samuel J. Cornelius, Food and Nutrition Service and U.S. Department of Agriculture 755 F. 2nd 1098 (1985)…...

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