The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that a federal program designed to regulate raisin supply and prices is unconstitutional.
The court sided with Fresno, Ca., raisin farmer Marvin Horne who challenged the 1949 marketing order that allowed the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to seize raisins from producers to ensure high prices. Justice John Roberts delivered the 8-1 decision of the court, joined by Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito in full, and in part by Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kagan.
“The reserve requirement imposed by the Raisin Committee is a clear physical taking,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote. “Actual raisins are transferred from the growers to the government. Title to the raisins passes to the Raisin Committee. The Committee disposes of those raisins as it wishes, to promote the purposes of the raisin marketing order.”
The decision struck a blow against one of the New Deal era’s most enduring principles—that the government can confiscate or destroy crops to preserve prices and reserves.
The Obama administration defended the USDA order as a “win-win proposition,” claiming that prices remain high for farmers allowing them to donate excess supply.