Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Friday, February 19, 2016

Farmers Win Property Rights in Raisins

Today California produces 40% of the raisins in the entire world, and exports a third of its massive raisin crop. It takes 4.5 pounds of fresh grapes to produce one pound of raisins, and a strong market price for raisins is necessary to cover their substantial costs. To help prop up the market price, the federal government has had a program since the Great Depression of forcing farmers to set aside a percentage of their raisin crop each year, thereby reducing the supply of raisins and increasing their value. In 2002-2003, the set-aside percentage was 47% of raisin farmers’ crops, and the federal government showed up at raisin farms to order farmers to load 47% of their raisin crop onto government trucks, for disposal.

At 8:00 am one morning in 2002, the federal government arrived at the raisin farm of the Horne family and demanded they load nearly half-million dollars-worth of raisins into the government truck, without receiving payment in return. The Hornes refused. They were then slapped with a fine of $200,000 plus another $480,000 for the estimated market value of the raisins themselves. The Hornes turned to the courts to avoid paying this crippling penalty. Litigation dragged on for more than a decade, until it was finally resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 victory for property rights.

The simple question presented to the Court was whether the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment requires the government to pay just compensation to raisin farmers when the government grabs their raisins, as required when government takes someone’s land. The Supreme Court answered “yes,” ruling that people have as strong a property right in their raisins as they do in their land.

The government should have known that it was violating the Constitution, and should have never put the Horne family farmers through 10 years of litigation.

Listen to the radio commentary here:

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