Legal Challenge to Federal Agriculture Policy



The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge to the 75-year-old Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act, one of the few pieces of New Deal legislation to survive to the present day. The AMAA authorizes the US Department of Agriculture to establish and enforce “marketing orders” for particular agricultural commodities, detailed federal regulations that control price, quantity, advertising, and other aspects of the market for that commodity. Or, if you prefer the USDA’s language: “Marketing agreements and orders are initiated by industry to help provide stable markets for dairy products, fruits, vegetables and specialty crops. Marketing orders help to maintain the quality of produce being marketed, standardize packages or containers, and authorized advertising, research and market development. Each order and agreement is tailored to the individual industry’s marketing needs.” George Orwell, call your office!

Two California raisin growers are challenging a $483,843 fine they were assessed by the USDA for selling raisins above their legally mandated quota. Interestingly, their argument is based on the Fifth Amendment’s “takings” clause, claiming that the federal limits of how much of their crop they can sell constitutes an unlawful taking of their private property. The Supreme Court has not been terribly sympathetic to takings arguments, to libertarian eyes, but the plaintiffs may have a shot here.

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