The 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is designed, among other things, to prevent private property from being taking for public use without just compensation. But thanks to Depression-era laws that fixed prices for certain farm products (and at the time served to deny cheap crops to starving families), the government has been stealing almost half of all raisins produced in California with little or no compensation to the farmers.
But farmers are fighting back, and thanks to a recent 9-0 Supreme Court ruling in their favor, California raisin producers may soon win their battle with the U.S. Department of Agriculture over who derives the most benefit for their labor: the growers or the government.
The Depression-era regulation called an agriculture marketing order requires raisin producers (and farmers of several other products) to comply with decisions made by an elected board of paper-shuffling, government functionary bureaucrats on how many raisins should be produced in a given year. The Raisin Administrative Committee’s job is to fix raisin prices. So once farmers have an idea on the size of the year’s harvest, the Raisin Administrative Committee tells the farmers how much of their product they must place in a reserve pool. That reserve pool cannot be sold in the United States and must be surrendered to raisin packers — crony capitalist corporations like Sun-Maid — that then package and sell the raisins to the U.S. government for school lunch programs or at reduced prices overseas.
Farmers were to receive some compensation for the raisins set aside. But thanks to dwindling profit margins, farmers weren’t compensated in 2003, even though 47 percent of their crop had to be handed over to the government. When that happened, Raisin Valley Farms owner Marvin Horne decided he’d had enough.
He believed that if he packaged and sold his own raisins, he could circumvent the order. Other raisin producers, sensing an opportunity to benefit from all their labor rather than only that portion the eggheaded bureaucrats thought they should, decided to follow suit.
The USDA promptly slapped the Hornes with fines and demanded payment for the raisins they didn’t surrender. Horne said the fines and payment totaled about $1 million — much more than he and his small farm could muster. So he sued.
The USDA, joined by Sun-Maid, argued the case had nothing to do with taking but was a case about the Hornes violating farming regulations. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, unsurprisingly, agreed with the USDA.
In June, the Supreme Court reversed the 9th Circuit and sent the case back with an order to hear the case on its Constitutional merits. The Hornes are hopeful the 9th Circuit will rule in their favor. If not, they say they’ll take the case back to the Supreme Court.
The case holds a lot of ramifications for farmers — and for Americans. And it spurs a lot of questions that, of course, are lost on pencil-pushing government functionaries, who must make and enforce burdensome regulations in order to justify their existence, and progressives, who actually believe that free-market capitalism exists in America and blame capitalism for economic woes.
Among the questions are:
- Why are Depression-era regulations still burdening farmers?
- Why is the government artificially raising the price of certain food items?
- Why should certain favored corporations receive products below market prices?
- Why does the U.S. government allow U.S. products to be sold to foreigners at artificially set lower prices than to Americans?
The answer, of course, is that America is a fascist system.
Hat tip: Reason.com