A policy started during FDR’s New Deal is being used today by the federal government to steal raisins from farmers. And the implications could lead to government theft of a wide range of personal property.
During the New Deal era, Congress gave the USDA the authority to take raisins from farmers without compensation. Actually, the USDA was given the authority to steal a variety of agricultural products—including almonds, walnuts, and cherries—and keep them in a government-controlled “reserve” to prevent them from being sold in U.S. markets. But while many of the other reserves faded away, the government continues to steal raisins from farmers—and claims it’s allowed to do so for because the theft benefits the farmer.
The stolen raisins are given to the Raisin Administrative Committee, a California-based organization made up of industry representatives, which is allowed to sell off some of those reserve raisins to pay its own expenses and to promote raisins overseas. Many raisin farmers are fine with the price-fixing cartel. But not everyone is taking the theft lightly.
Marvin Horne is one farmer that has refused to surrender his raisins to the government. Because of his refusal to allow his crops to be taken without compensation Horne “owes” hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and over 1 million pounds of his crops to the federal government.
Horne’s challenge to the law, Horne v. US Department of Agriculture, was heard this week before the Supreme Court. He is arguing the taking of his property without compensation is a violation of the Fifth Amendment, while the government is claiming they can take personal property without compensating the owner. More broadly, the government is arguing they have the ability to take a broad range of personal property—from raisins to iPhones from Americans without compensation. A lower court has agreed, ruling that while the Fifth Amendment protects private property it does not apply to personal property.
In this video, legal scholar Ilya Somin explains the broad implications of this ridiculous form of government theft.