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High Court To Hear Raisin Growers' Case

Publication Date: 
November 21, 2012
Los Angeles Times
David G. Savage

Professor Michael McConnell spoke with the Los Angeles Times' David G. Savage about a case he is arguing which is headed to the Supreme Court to determine whether a federal maketing program which can take nearly half of a growers crop is constitutional. 

The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to hear an appeal from Fresno raisin growers Marvin and Laura Horne, who contend that the federal marketing program that can take nearly half of their crop is unconstitutional.

Their case poses a significant challenge to the New Deal-era farm program that seeks to prop up prices by keeping part of the crop off the market.


The federal marketing order for raisins "extracts a hefty portion of a farmer's annual raisin crop as a condition" for selling the rest of it on the market, said the growers' appellate lawyer, Michael McConnell, a Stanford University law professor and former federal appeals court judge.

In 2003, when the case began, raisin handlers were required to set aside 47% of the crop, he said. The next year, the percentage dropped to 30%.

In those two years, the raisin board "determined that the compensation for the reserve-tonnage raisins should be set at precisely zero dollars," he said. The Hornes "received no compensation for the USDA's appropriation of almost one-third of their crop," he said.

In defense of the USDA, Solicitor Gen. Donald Verrilli Jr. had urged the court to steer clear of the case. The marketing orders apply to "handlers" of raisins, not to producers, he said.

The Hornes tried to play both roles by producing raisins and then marketing them, he said. They "cannot flout the raisin marketing order and then challenge the resulting monetary assessment on the ground that compensation might hypothetically be owed if they had complied," he said.