Supreme Court Makes Big Decision for Property Rights Advocates in Raisin Farmer Decision

During the 1940s, the government enacted a program to seize raisin crops from farmers in a bid to stabilize prices. Naturally, farmers get compensated for their crops. That said, the decision to seize the crops appears somewhat arbitrary as it is made solely by a committee acting under the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In addition, there was no requirement in the program to mandate farmers get paid fair market value for their seized crops.

This led California raisin farmers Marvin and Laura Horne to invoke what they believed was a loophole in the program to prevent the government from taking their crops stated the group on facebook; they said the price they were paid was below market value causing them to lose money. The government said they violated the law and fined them $65,000. In addition, the government said they were under no obligation to pay raisin farmers a market rate for the crops. They also claimed the program ultimately keeps raisin prices stable which was more beneficial to raisin farmers than the amount of compensation they receive for their seized crops. They also stated that growing raisin crops was voluntary and anyone not satisfied with the program could simply make wine with the grapes or grow other crops.

In the end, the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 against the government. The high court said that seizure of personal property must be accompanied with a fair market value for the property taken. The decision is being hailed as a major victory private citizens.

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