Fresno County raisin farmer Marvin D. Horne is returning to the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes of harvesting a final victory.
On Friday, the court announced it would hear Horne’s case against the Agriculture Department. Horne and his allies contend the raisin industry’s marketing order can amount to a taking of private property, for which compensation is owed.
Two years ago, in an 8-0 decision, the high court gave Horne a key procedural victory, in ruling that the Fifth Amendment taking argument could be raised in a conventional federal court case. The case that will be heard now gets to the underlying program.
The marketing order regulates handlers, who pack and process the raisins. It has been used to require, in certain years, that handlers withhold a certain percentage of their crop for a “reserve tonnage” managed by the Fresno-based Raisin Administrative Committee.
Raisin handlers set aside 47% of their crop during the 2002-2003 season and 30% for 2003-2004, but were paid for only a part of what they surrendered.
Horne and other disaffected growers declared they were exempt from the set-aside requirement, because they took care of their own packing. The Agriculture Department called this a “scheme” and ordered Horne and his coalition to pay more than $650,000 in fees and penalties.
“This case presents the important question of whether the federal government can seize ownership, each year, of a large portion of a farmer’s raisin crop without paying the just compensation required by the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment,” Horne’s attorneys said in a legal brief.
The hour-long oral argument will be heard this spring, and it’s likely to attract considerable interest.