SCOTUS: No Raisins Without Fair Compensation

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on June 23, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

You work all year to grow grapes and make raisins. Then, the government says you have to give them some of those raisins for free! Are you happy about that?

Well, the government can no longer exploit raisin growers for free sweet snacks after the Supreme Court sided with raisin farmers in the case of Horne v. Department of Agriculture.

Raisin Regulation

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has authority under the 1949 "Marketing Order Regulating the Handling of Raisins Produced from Grapes Grown in California," to demand raisin farmers turn over a portion of their yearly raisin crop to the government. The program aims to regulate the amount of raisins available for sale on the market. The surrendered raisins belong to the Raisin Administrative Committee which can give the raisins away to school lunch programs or sell them to foreign exporters. Sometimes, raisin farmers may get a small share of the proceeds of such sales.

In Horne v. Department of Agriculture, Marvin and Laura Horne, raisin farmers in Fresno, California, refused to relinquish a portion of their 2003 and 2004 raisin crop. The USDA fined them $8,783.39 in overdue fees and $483,834.45 for the price of the crop. The Hornes sued the Department of Agriculture arguing that the program is an illegal taking in violation of the "Takings Clause" of the Fifth Amendment.

Fifth Amendment

Under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, the government cannot take private property for public use without just compensation."

The government argued that the appropriation of raisins is not covered by the Fifth Amendment. It argued that the amendment only requires the government to pay compensation when it takes real property (land) and not personal property (cars, phones, raisins).

In an 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the Fifth Amendment applies equally to personal property and real property. The Court also determined that the USDA's raisin program was a taking as defined by the Fifth Amendment, and raisin farmers should be justly compensated.

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