What the Raisin Decision Says
Horne v. Department of Agriculture first came to the Supreme Court on the question of whether the Hornes even had the right to claim that the government action was indeed a “taking” for “public use,” requiring the government to give the Hornes “just compensation” under the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause. The Supreme Court unanimously sided with the Hornes and remanded the case for lower‐court review of that takings issue.
Now, two years after permitting the Hornes to escape a byzantine administrative purgatory and have their day in court, the Supreme Court sided with them again, declaring that raisins are “private property—the fruit of the growers’ labor—not ‘public things subject to the absolute control of the state.’ Any physical taking of them for public use must be accompanied by just compensation.”
Moreover, as Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for all of his colleagues save Justice Sonia Sotomayor, “[n]othing in the text or history of the Takings Clause, or our precedents, suggests that the rule is any different when it comes to appropriation of personal property [as distinct from real estate]. The Government has a categorical duty to pay just compensation when it takes your car, just as when it takes your home.”
What the Decision Means
Today’s Supreme Court decision has far‐reaching implications for the continuation of all the New Deal‐era agricultural price controls—which seem so bizarre that the Hornes’ case attracted more media attention than your typical regulatory challenge (or perhaps Jon Stewart just has a thing for nature’s candy).
Indeed, marketing orders exist across a cornucopia of agricultural products, including almonds, apricots, avocados, cherries (sweet and tart, respectively), citrus (Florida and Texas), cranberries, dates, grapes, hazelnuts, kiwifruit, olives, onions (four geographic designations), pears, pistachios, plums/prunes, potatoes (five geographic areas), spearmint oil, tomatoes, and walnuts—nearly 30 bureaucracies in total! The AMAA also permits the federal government to reach into the hops and honeybee industries. All of these schemes are at a minimum constitutionally suspect now, and likely would be invalidated if some brave plaintiff followed the Hornes’ example, stood in the way of government trucks, and fought the resulting fines in court.
The ruling also has implications for state and federal dairy schemes. The AMAA also regulates dairy production, with marketing orders reaching more than half the country. Dairy controls have been particularly contentious; they were even the underlying subject of the infamous United States v. Carolene Products, the 1938 case that bifurcated our rights and allowed governments at all levels to run roughshod over economic and property rights.
After Horne, some 80 years since the start of the New Deal, the government’s agriculture technocracy is finally drying up like a raisin in the sun.