For over 80 years, raisin farmers have been forced to give up to 47% of their crop to the federal government for little or no payment.
Now a raisin farmer’s suit against the federal government will be heard at the Supreme Court.
Tis the season to give thanks. And for the last 80 years, the federal government has required raisin producers to “give thanks” for the privilege of selling their raisins nationally by requiring them to fork over up to half of their raisins – for free. A lawsuit raising a constitutional challenge to the program has now made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The case is Horne v. Department of Agriculture.
The program, operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has a rather Orwellian-sounding name – the “Raisin Marketing Order.” In a nutshell, under this program, every year, as a condition for “letting” farmers sell their raisin crops in interstate commerce, the federal government has taken up to 47% of the farmers’ raisins – often for no payment at all, or below the cost of producing the raisins. The program has its origins in Great Depression efforts to fix the prices of agricultural crops. Don’t care much for raisins? Similar programs cover a variety of other agricultural products, such as walnuts, almonds, prunes, tart cherries – and cranberries! That’s something to chew on as you sit down to your Thanksgiving meal tomorrow.
Think the raisin program comes straight from the That-Must-Be-Unconstitutional Department? So did Marvin and Laura Horne, California raisin farmers and small business owners who, in 2004, found themselves facing a federal government “enforcement action” against them for failing to fork over nearly half their raisins after they began to sell their raisins directly rather than through a middle-man that packages the raisins. In addition to a bevy of fines, the government said it was willing to take the cash value of the Horne’s raisins in lieu of the raisins themselves (the assessments and penalties totaled nearly $700,000 – that’s enough to buy about 3.7 million mini cartons of Sun-Maid raisins, in case you were wondering…). The Hornes fought back, claiming that the program violates the U.S. Constitution’s “Takings Clause,” which provides that if the federal government takes private property, it must justly compensate the private property owners for it.
Read the rest here.