Neb. organic inspector wants lawsuit dismissed

Farm Forum

RAYMOND, Neb. (AP) – A part-time organic food inspector is hoping to get a libel lawsuit against him dismissed that was brought by a Nebraska farmer he reported for suspected fraud, an attorney said.

Evrett Lunquist planned to request a summary judgment in the multi-million claim against him brought by Paul Rosberg, the owner of a Cedar County farm, Lunquist’s attorney, Andrew Weeks, told the Lincoln Journal Star for a story Jan. 15.

Lunquist, who performed inspections at the farm from 2003 until 2007, reported Rosberg for suspected fraud to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Rosberg sued Lunquist after an official from the USDA’s National Organic Program mistakenly included Lunquist’s name in a report about the allegations.

Rosberg, whose organic certification license was revoked last year, said Lunquist misrepresented facts about his operation to the USDA. Rosberg, who is representing himself in the lawsuit, told the newspaper he wants a jury trial and is confident he’ll prevail.

“He’s always playing some kind of saint,” Rosberg said of Lunquist. “Worried that things are not organic, trying to be a nice, nice guy and giving a report that’s not true.”

Lunquist said he has spent nearly $30,000 in legal costs.

“It’s something I think about lots and lots,” Lunquist said. “Like, why is this happening?”

Liz Sarno, an organic food specialist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, expressed concern about how this could affect the industry going forward if a whistleblower can be exposed to a lawsuit.

“That’s going to weaken the system,” she Sarno.

Rosberg faces a criminal case in which he’s accused of selling uninspected meat to the Omaha Public Schools.