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Public Citizen v. U.S. Department of Agriculture (COVID-19)

The COVID-19 pandemic had a major impact on workers in meat and poultry processing facilities across the country. In May 2020, Public Citizen submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the USDA for records relating to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the health and safety of workers at meat and poultry processing facilities. Although USDA granted Public Citizen’s request for expedited processing, the agency had failed to complete production of the requested records more than a year later. Moreover, USDA had heavily redacted those records that it had produced, invoking FOIA exemptions 4, 5, and 6.

In May 2021, Public Citizen filed suit to compel USDA to complete its production of the requested records and disclose information wrongfully withheld. USDA then re-produced some of the documents with fewer redactions, after which the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment regarding some of the redactions as to which USDA asserted exemption 4. On August 5, 2022, the Court granted our motion for summary judgment, ruling in our favor on all of the challenged exemption 4 withholdings. The agency then disclosed the additional information.