In 2015 America, government overreach isn’t exactly headline news anymore. From the IRS to the VA to the EPA, it seems like every agency in the country is managing to find new and exciting ways to rob from the middle class to feed the bureaucracy; not only is the “system” growing, it’s getting harder and harder for the average citizen to fight The Man and come out standing.
Not headline news, and nothing new; many of the programs giving Americans hell were developed decades back. One program targeting raisin farmers, however, is currently under fire from business owners looking to protect their property rights.
In the wake of World War II, the US government developed a series of programs aimed at stabilizing the agricultural industry. They wanted to drive up market prices, and decided the best way to do so was to confiscate a portion of each farmer’s raisin crop without compensation. (Yes, really.) In 2001, farmers Marvin and Laura Horne decided they had had enough with regulations, and developed their own packaging and distribution system.
The government, in turn, told the couple that they owed almost $700,000; the Horne’s sued, and fielded a predictable loss at the 9th Circuit. The appeals court sided with the government, saying that the farmers benefit from the stabilization programs; the Hornes took their case to the Supreme Court, where it was argued this week.
Fox News describes the mood in the courtroom:
During a one-hour argument, most of the justices seemed to agree. Justice Antonin Scalia compared it to old-style Russian central planning, while Justice Elena Kagan called it a “weird historical anomaly.”
Chief Justice John Roberts noted that most other farm regulatory programs try to limit how much of a crop farmers can grow, as opposed to taking away produce already harvested.
“This is different because you come up with the truck and you get the shovels and you take their raisins, probably in the dark of night,” Roberts said to laughter.
Deputy Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler, arguing for the government, stressed that the Hornes benefit from increased raisin prices. He said they voluntarily put their crops into the stream of commerce, so authorities can subject them to market regulations.
But Roberts called it a “classical, physical taking.”
The worst part of the government’s argument against the Hornes is that they “voluntarily put their crops into the stream of commerce,” and are thus subject to “market regulations”—but does that argument really apply here? A quick perusal of my 1L Constitutional Law outline shows a definition of “taking” that looks an awful lot like what’s happening to raisin farmers.
If more than just the conservative justices are on board with this argument, this could end up being a historical ruling for the Supreme Court, and a big blow to big government regulators.
A ruling is expected in June. We’ll keep you posted!DONATE
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