Rogue raisin farmer Marvin Horne owes the U.S. government hundreds of dollars in unpaid fines and millions of pounds of raisins.
Horne and his wife have been drying grapes in Fresno, Calif., since 1969. In 2002, the couple began intentionally violating a federal law that enables the Agriculture Department to enforce the seizure of a portion of every California raisin farmer’s annual crop, in certain years as much as 47 percent, without a right to compensation, and in some years with no compensation at all.
The intent of the New Deal-era law was to prevent a raisin glut and to use the generated revenues to benefit farmers, often by paying for raisin-promoting ad campaigns overseas.
In response to a USDA administrative enforcement proceeding against him, Horne and members of his family filed a lawsuit to claim that government seizure of farmers’ raisins without compensation is unconstitutional under the Fifth Amendment, no matter what benefit farmers may gain by the sale of the seized raisins
These laws are relics of a long-gone era, when farms were smaller and more numerous than they are today.
The raisin marketing order is not worth the cost it imposes on farmers such as Marvin Horne; nor does it prove the law benefits U.S. customers, who are presumably charged inflated prices for raisins. Congress should reconsider the wisdom of this price-inflating law.