SCOTUS Kills Agency’s Raisin d’Être

 
Marvin Horne

Raisin farmer Marvin Horne won his 11-year-long suit against the federal government.

Hidden in the tottering mountain range of federal regulations is the sinister-sounding Marketing Order 989. This rule empowers the Marketing Order and Agreement Division of the Fruit and Vegetable Program of the Agricultural Marketing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to manage a National Raisin Reserve.

That’s right, America: We’re $18 trillion in debt but our government pays for a National Raisin Reserve.

The sub-sub-sub-division of the USDA even created a 35-person Raisin Administrative Committee to oversee our strategic supply of dried grapes. In this Truman-era scheme, the federal government seizes a large percentage of every farmer’s crop in order to prop up prices.

Surely, Obama’s various “Smarter Government” initiatives must have laughed at the ridiculous raisin cartel and ordered it dismantled, right?

Believe it or not, President MENSA thought it was just swell and spent untold piles of Chinese cash defending it in court, even hiring private investigators to harass Dangerous Enemies of the Raisin Cartel.

California farmer Marvin Horne is America’s leading raisin dissident. For years, the 70-year-old allowed the government to seize a percentage of his harvest. Those stolen raisins were placed into the reserve and he had to eat the cost, so to speak. All farmers just considered this theft the price of doing business until 2002 when Horne said no.

“I believe in America. And I believe in our Constitution. And I believe that eventually we will be proved right,” Horne said. “They took our raisins and didn’t pay us for them.”

“The hell with the whole mess,” he said, “it’s like being a serf.”

Shocked at the serf’s insolence, the U.S. government demanded Horne pay $650,000 in fines and surrender 1.2 million pounds of raisins. That equals four years of harvests.

The farmer lost every court case until he reached the Supreme Court. Justices from the left and right were amazed that the program even existed.

Justice Antonin Scalia called it “a crazy statute.” Justices Breyer and Sotomayor insisted that Horne have the ability to “challenge this scheme.” Even Justice Kagan wondered “whether this marketing order is a taking or it’s just the world’s most outdated law.” They kicked it back to the Ninth Circuit to make a decision, but the USDA had the power to end it any time they wanted.

When the Ninth Circuit again blessed the silly scheme, SCOTUS voted 5-4 to declare the raisin regulation unconstitutional and said that Horne and other farmers had to be paid for their seized product.

“The reserve requirement imposed by the Raisin Committee is a clear physical taking,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote. “The Hornes should simply be relieved of the obligation to pay the fine and associated civil penalty they were assessed when they resisted the government’s effort to take their raisins.”

After an 11-year battle with the USDA, the raisin dissident was jubilant. “I’m elated,” Horne said. “The monkey is off my back. I think it’s a great ruling for everybody; if you want my raisins, pay for them.”

Published in Law
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  1. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator
    @Instugator

    Another Pro(re)gressive program bites the dust.

    • #1
  2. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    Breyer, Ginsburg, and Kagan were right.

    The others were wrong.

    The benefit the Hornes received in terms of higher prices for the raisins they sold on the market should be weighed as part of the just compensation analysis.

    • #2
  3. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Can’t the government just declare that it is a Tax? A Tax to be paid in raisins by raisin growers? Isn’t every government taking just a “Tax” since the Obama Care ruling?

    • #3
  4. billy Inactive
    billy
    @billy

    Well great.

    Now the Russians and the Chinese and God knows who else (Iran?)will be able to snatch up our raisins  on the open market.

    How long before we face a Strategic Raisin Gap? Worse yet, we will face the Raisin Gap with a seriously diminished Navy.

    Way to go, Supreme Court.

    • #4
  5. user_82762 Inactive
    user_82762
    @JamesGawron

    Jon,

    NOT THE STRATEGIC RAISIN RESERVE!!! Don’t you understand?!! If we let the Strategic Raisin Reserve fall below a certain level then Lord Whorfin may attack thorough the 8th dimension. Call Buckaroo immediately!

    Not the Raisins. Oh the humanity!

    Jon

    • #5
  6. Gödel's Ghost Inactive
    Gödel's Ghost
    @GreatGhostofGodel

    OK, Jon, ‘fess up: how long have you been waiting to use that title? :-)

    • #6
  7. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Admin
    Jon Gabriel, Ed.
    @jon

    James Gawron: Lord Whorfin may attack thorough the 8th dimension. Call Buckaroo immediately!

    One of the finest films ever made.

    • #7
  8. Eric Hines Inactive
    Eric Hines
    @EricHines

    if you want my raisins, pay for them.

    Isn’t that HRC’s line?

    Eric Hines

    • #8
  9. billy Inactive
    billy
    @billy

    OMG, this just gets worse. From the USDA page on Market Order 989:

    Reserve raisins may be sold to handlers for free use; used in diversion programs; exported to authorized countries; 

    So now  Raisins may be sold to unauthorized countries?

    So which countries are not authorized to receive California Raisins?

    And what in God’s name are they capable of doing with our Raisins that we have heretofore found it necessary to keep them out of their hands?

    What can Raisins be used for that we don’t know?

    • #9
  10. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @EustaceCScrubb

    How did you first hear about this story?  As for me, I heard it through the grape vine.

    • #10
  11. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    That’s wonderful news for Horne and others.

    It’s a shame it took the courts to end this.

    • #11
  12. Jason Rudert Inactive
    Jason Rudert
    @JasonRudert

    ctlaw
    “Breyer, Ginsburg, and Kagan were right.

    The others were wrong.

    The benefit the Hornes received in terms of higher prices for the raisins they sold on the market should be weighed as part of the just compensation analysis.”

    I’m glad you brought this up. What did the other raisin producers have to say? They’ve all benefitted from the price support. Now that Horne has broken away from it, is he really going to enjoy selling on the open market? I will not be surprised if he comes crawling back.

    • #12
  13. Julia PA Inactive
    Julia PA
    @JulesPA

    Mrs. Obama’s next campaign

    #BringBackOurRaisins

    Raisins5

    • #13
  14. Julia PA Inactive
    Julia PA
    @JulesPA

    I am confused…

    This wasn’t a farm subsidy, where the farmers would receive $$ from the feds to bring product to market, and the feds absorb the inherent risk in the success or failure of the crop?

    Based on the vocab in the OP it was a marketing order…where no individual producer within the prescribed geography can opt out? And when the raisins are distributed ‘off market’ the proceeds are devoured by the agency?

    The profits from the raisins, often seized for no payment, are then used to pay the expenses of the committee or pay back farmers for their seized produce. In one recent year, $65,483,211 was made, although it was all spent, with none left over for farmers, according to the review of one recent year.[1]

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Raisin_Reserve

    Marketing orders and agreementsinUnited States agricultural policyallow producers to promoteorderly marketingthrough collectively influencing the supply, demand, or price of a particular commodity. Research and promotion can be financed with pooled funds.

    Marketing orders are binding on all handlers of the commodity within the geographic area of regulation once it is approved by a required number of producers (usually two-thirds).[1] An order may limit the quantity of goods marketed, or establish the grade, size, maturity, quality, or prices of the goods. The Agricultural Marketing Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) uses marketing orders to regulate the sale of dairy products[2]and fruits and vegetables.[3] An order can be terminated when a majority of all producers favor its termination or when the USDA determines that the order no longer serves its intended purpose. Marketing agreements may contain more diversified provisions, but are enforceable only against those handlers who enter into the agreement.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marketing_orders_and_agreements

    Well, SCOTUS got one thing right.

    • #14
  15. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    Imagine raisins sell at $1 per pound (in a government-free market) and the Hornes can grow a million pounds per year and make $1 million gross sales.

    Imagine it costs $1 per pound to grow raisins so that they make nothing net.

    If the government confiscates and destroys half of everyone’s raisins, the price will go up. What if it goes up to $4 per pound so that the Hornes now make $2 million gross on the 500,000 pounds they can sell? They now net $1 million. Not content with that, they then ask to be given another $2 million. Seem like greedy SoBs to me.

    That being said, my recollection was that they (or someone in a similar case) tried to argue that they were producing high end premium raisins and not commodity raisins so that they effectively were in a different market with different price elasticity. If that is the case, the law as I believe it should be would let them argue that they did not receive the benefit of higher prices…

    • #15
  16. Eric Hines Inactive
    Eric Hines
    @EricHines

    ctlaw:Imagine raisins sell at $1 per pound (in a government-free market) and the Hornes can grow a million pounds per year and make $1 million gross sales.  …

    If the government confiscates and destroys half of everyone’s raisins, the price will go up.

    What Breyer, Ginsburg, and Kagan carefully ignore is that when the price goes up due to government intervention, the consumer is robbed–by that government.  This isn’t a free market.

    But it is entirely consistent with these three opining from the bench on the basis of their sense of social justice.  This is what Wickard has wrought.

    Eric Hines

    • #16
  17. Butters Inactive
    Butters
    @CommodoreBTC

    The real travesty is the Court affirming the state has a right to take his raisins at all, regardless of whether they pay for them. As if taking a man’s crops falls under the public good.

    I think only Thomas dissented on that point.

    • #17
  18. Steve C. Member
    Steve C.
    @user_531302

    I going to put on my lawyer’s wig and opine. There were two main questions. The first was whether this constitutes a “taking”. The second was if it is a taking, what is “just compensation”? By 8-1, they ruled it was a taking and then had to decide the compensation part. Unfortunately for the government, they had at one time set the value of the raisins seized as $400k. Roberts and the majority combined that with the 10 plus year travesty to conclude that was sufficient and called the game on account of darkness. The minority, slaves to the state, decided what this case needed was another three years to marinate so the judges could pretend they knew the answer to the question, how best can we screw these people?
    Justice Sotomayor was the only one to vote against the plaintiffs, probably out of fealty to the memory of FDR.

    • #18
  19. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    Eric Hines:

    ctlaw:Imagine raisins sell at $1 per pound (in a government-free market) and the Hornes can grow a million pounds per year and make $1 million gross sales. …

    If the government confiscates and destroys half of everyone’s raisins, the price will go up.

    What Breyer, Ginsburg, and Kagan carefully ignore is that when the price goes up due to government intervention, the consumer is robbed–by that government. This isn’t a free market.

    But it is entirely consistent with these three opining from the bench on the basis of their sense of social justice. This is what Wickard has wrought.

    Eric Hines

    I think you are conflating the power to impose the program and the merits of it on the one hand with the question of compensation.

    • #19
  20. Eric Hines Inactive
    Eric Hines
    @EricHines

    ctlaw:

    Eric Hines:

    ctlaw:Imagine raisins sell at $1 per pound (in a government-free market) and the Hornes can grow a million pounds per year and make $1 million gross sales. …

    If the government confiscates and destroys half of everyone’s raisins, the price will go up.

    What Breyer, Ginsburg, and Kagan carefully ignore is that when the price goes up due to government intervention, the consumer is robbed–by that government. This isn’t a free market.

    But it is entirely consistent with these three opining from the bench on the basis of their sense of social justice. This is what Wickard has wrought.

    Eric Hines

    I think you are conflating the power to impose the program and the merits of it on the one hand with the question of compensation.

    Not so much.  Absent the power to impose, there is no compensation question.

    On the other hand, there are Berman, Midkiff, and Kelo on the matter of whether it’s a legitimate taking.

    Eric Hines

    • #20
  21. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    Eric Hines:

    ctlaw:

    Eric Hines:

    ctlaw:Imagine raisins sell at $1 per pound (in a government-free market) and the Hornes can grow a million pounds per year and make $1 million gross sales. …

    If the government confiscates and destroys half of everyone’s raisins, the price will go up.

    What Breyer, Ginsburg, and Kagan carefully ignore is that when the price goes up due to government intervention, the consumer is robbed–by that government. This isn’t a free market.

    But it is entirely consistent with these three opining from the bench on the basis of their sense of social justice. This is what Wickard has wrought.

    Eric Hines

    I think you are conflating the power to impose the program and the merits of it on the one hand with the question of compensation.

    Not so much. Absent the power to impose, there is no compensation question.

    On the other hand, there are Berman, Midkiff, and Kelo on the matter of whether it’s a legitimate taking.

    Eric Hines

    Even if the government lacked the power to impose, compensation would be due.

    • #21
  22. Eric Hines Inactive
    Eric Hines
    @EricHines

    ctlaw: Even if the government lacked the power to impose, compensation would be due.

    As penalty, not as just compensation.

    Eric Hines

    • #22
  23. Frank Soto Contributor
    Frank Soto
    @FrankSoto

    So farmers can now let the market decide how many raisins they should produce? Anarchy!

    • #23
  24. Steve C. Member
    Steve C.
    @user_531302

    So farmers can now let the market decide how many raisins they should produce? Anarchy!

    Followed by the inevitable cats and dogs cohabiting. Mass hysteria.

    • #24
  25. Gödel's Ghost Inactive
    Gödel's Ghost
    @GreatGhostofGodel

    I guess I’ve found my “conservative litmus test:” if you accept the government taking anyone’s private property, for any reason whatsoever, you aren’t a conservative.

    • #25
  26. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator
    @Instugator

    Commodore BTC:The real travesty is the Court affirming the state has a right to take his raisins at all, regardless of whether they pay for them. As if taking a man’s crops falls under the public good.

    I think only Thomas dissented on that point.

    I don’t think they affirmed this part at all.

    • #26
  27. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator
    @Instugator

    Steve C.:I going to put on my lawyer’s wig and opine. There were two main questions. The first was whether this constitutes a “taking”. The second was if it is a taking, what is “just compensation”? By 8-1, they ruled it was a taking and then had to decide the compensation part. Unfortunately for the government, they had at one time set the value of the raisins seized as $400k. Roberts and the majority combined that with the 10 plus year travesty to conclude that was sufficient and called the game on account of darkness. The minority, slaves to the state, decided what this case needed was another three years to marinate so the judges could pretend they knew the answer to the question, how best can we screw these people? Justice Sotomayor was the only one to vote against the plaintiffs, probably out of fealty to the memory of FDR.

    Mr. Horne never surrendered his raisins to the board. He sold them and was given a substantial fine by the FDA. After the 2002 fine, he continued to refuse to surrender his crops (preferring the open market) and the FDA continued to fine him. The court held the taking was unconstitutional and the remedy was to erase the fine.

    I don’t understand why he didn’t get lawyer’s fees in the bargain.

    • #27
  28. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Instugator: eting Service of the U.S. Department

    Instugator:Another Pro(re)gressive program bites the dust.

    So what are the odds that the Obama administration will end the program?

    I’m pretty sure it doesn’t consider itself to be bound by Supreme Court decisions.

    • #28
  29. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    billy:Well great.

    Now the Russians and the Chinese and God knows who else (Iran?)will be able to snatch up our raisins on the open market.

    How long before we face a Strategic Raisin Gap? Worse yet, we will face the Raisin Gap with a seriously diminished Navy.

    Way to go, Supreme Court.

    This could be serious.  I always put raisins in my breakfast oatmeal, and the box in the cupboard is less than half full.

    • #29
  30. Butters Inactive
    Butters
    @CommodoreBTC

    so a farmer now has a guaranteed government buyer for as many crops as they can grow, if the government wants to keep the market supply artificially low?

    • #30
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