The U.S. Department of Agriculture has responded to the filing of a lawsuit that alleges the organization did not follow proper procedures as it developed a rule allowing Argentine lemons to be imported into the U.S.

The Santa Paula, Calif.-based U.S. Citrus Science Council announced May 18 that it had sued the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The council and California Citrus Mutual cited concerns about the possibility that lemons from Argentina could bring pests and diseases to the U.S.

Industry members also dispute the USDA’s estimate of the economic impact of the rule on domestic producers, but that disagreement is secondary to the opinion that USDA did not conduct sufficient due diligence — and inform and engage the industry about those efforts — in its assessment of pest and disease risk in Argentina.

In a statement, USDA said it was aware of the lawsuit and defended its process.

“APHIS made this decision because our extensive review and analysis of the science shows that importing Argentine lemons can be safely done while protecting U.S. agriculture from plant pests,” the USDA said in the statement. “APHIS is currently reviewing the lawsuit and will not comment on pending litigation.”

The rule is set to go into effect May 26.