The high court ruled that a program that allows state officials to take raisins from farmers to help reduce supply and boost prices is unconstitutional.
The ruling is a victory for farmers Marvin and Laura Horne of Kermin, California. The couple said they were losing money because of the 1940s-era program. They were fined nearly $700,000 for skirting the rules.
The program was adopted to protect raisin growers, but the plaintiffs called the rules outdated and ineffective. The government argued that the Hornes – and other raisin farmers – benefited from increased raisin prices. A federal appeals court agreed, but the Supreme Court has now reversed that decision.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority decision for a divided court. He said that forcing raisin growers to give up part of their annual crop without full compensation is an illegal confiscation of private property. In other words, if the government wants your raisins, it has to pay.
Yet to be seen is how today’s decision will effect other so-called “marketing orders” on crops like almonds, kiwis and products like milk.
The raisins that were confiscated were held in reserve and sold outside the open market, for things like school lunches, or given away to charities and foreign governments.
The case stems from 2003 and 2004, which was the last year that farmers were ordered to turn over part of their crop. Since then, raisin prices have remained steady.