Wonderful Company's attempt to stop Touchstone Pistachio Company's expansion of its plant in Terra Bella has been rejected as first reported by the SJV Sun.
Wonderful provides numerous food and agricultural products, including citrus and nuts, and has major operations in Kern and Southern Tulare Counties. Wonderful's billionaire owner Stewart Resnick and the Assemi family, who own Touchstone, have been bitter rivals for years. The Assemi family left Wonderful to create their own company, Touchstone.
The Wonderful Company filed suit against Tulare County in July, 2020 over its issuance of building permits ARO Pistachios, a Touchstone company, to expand its plant in Terra Bella. In the suit, Wonderful claim its workers who worked in nearby citrus groves and pistachio orchards would be harmed by Touchstone's expansion. Touchstone plans to added additional equipment and silos to expand its production.
Tulare County Superior Court Judge Bret D. Hillman ruled against Wonderful on October 28. Hillman stated Wonderful's attorney was unable to show any evidence of how those who work or live nearby the proposed expansion would be affected.
“None of Wonderful’s alleged concerns relating to the health of its employees or its ‘property interests’ motivated them to timely object to the Special Use Permit at the time it was issued,” Hillman stated in his written ruling.
Hillman also noted Wonderful's attorney stated Wonderful's orchard was two miles from Touchstone's plant. He also wrote when it came to Wonderful's claims its employees would be harmed, the company's attorney admitted it was a “tenuous connection.”
Hillman also stated his doubts about Wonderful's “purported” concerns, writing the company had other options to deal with the issue, but instead decided after Touchstone provided a “competitive concern” to sue the county.
“...it bears noting, when a robust array of options were available to them under the law (e.g. CEQA) to raise and litigate its purported public concerns — rather, only after Touchtone presented a commercial, competitive concern did Wonderful seize on the opportunity afforded by the issuance of the Building Permits to mount its challenge,” Hillman wrote.
Wonderful Company didn't have any comment. Touchstone executive director of operations Rudy Placencia in a released statement said: “We thank the court for its dedication and careful consideration of this case. We welcome the decision as an endorsement of fair and open competition to create increased opportunities for growers throughout the region.”