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Supreme Court rules against federal seizure of farmer's crop production


Raisin farmers

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(NaturalNews) The U.S. Supreme Court has either been a bane on the Constitution or a champion of civil rights with rulings handed down in recent days, but one issue in particular that appears to win approval of a large majority of Americans garnered far fewer headlines and attention.

On June 22, in one effort, a nevertheless divided court handed down three consecutive rulings that affirmed the rights of raisin farmers, hotel owners and prison inmates, writes constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead for LewRockwell.com.

"However, this push back against government abuse, government snooping and government theft only came about because some determined citizens stood up and took a stand against tyranny," he noted.

The cases, he explained, dealt with the federal government's confiscation of agricultural crops sans any guarantees or promises of payment, the practice of police getting unfettered access to motel and hotel guest registries, and the use of tasers and excessive force against prisoners.

Yes, about that Fifth Amendment...

But it's this first case – regarding the raisin farmers – that ought to get the most attention from Natural News readers concerned with their own agricultural and land-use issues.

As noted by Whitehead, in that case – Horne et al. v. Department of Agriculture – a 5-4 court ruled that farmer Marvin Horne deserves compensation for the official seizure of one-third of his personal property by the Feds:

The case arose after independent raisin farmers in California were fined almost $700,000 for refusing to surrender about 40% of the raisins they produced to the government as part of a program purportedly aimed at maintaining a stable market for commodities.

The Hornes – Marvin and Laura – are independent California farmers who have been producing raisins for nearly 50 years. During that time, they were subject to a law passed during the Great Depression empowering the Dept. of Agriculture to ensure that "orderly" market conditions exist for raisins and essentially mandating the regulation of their supply to enforce artificial scarcity.

That supply is summarily regulated by requiring raisin producers to give up a percentage of their crop (so called "reserve tonnage") every year to an administrative body.

In the 2002-2003 producing season, the reserve tonnage was set at 47 percent of the crop; the reserve tonnage can then be sold by the federal government, with Uncle Sam paying himself first for administrative costs and then providing prorated payments to participating farmers.

"However, in 2002-2003, raisin farmers received payments that did not cover the expenses of production and in 2003-2004, no payments whatsoever were made for reserve tonnage raisins," Whitehead wrote.

The Hornes tried to make arrangements within their operation to avoid having to give up a portion of their crop, but to no avail: The USDA assessed a penalty against them for $695,226 for having failed to give up any portion of raisins they produced between 2002 and 2004.

'Takings Clause' treats all 'property' the same

The Hornes appealed on grounds that being required to give up, on pain of monetary penalty, a portion of their property without any guarantee of just compensation is a violation of the Fifth Amendment, which states that private property cannot be taken by the government without providing such compensation.

But a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the Fifth Amendment somehow affords less protection to "personal property" than "real property" (like land), and in doing so upheld the penalty.

Apparently, the Hornes appealed to the Supreme Court, further arguing that the Fifth Amendment's prohibition on government confiscation of any property not only applies to the appropriation of land but also to other property, like crops, and in equal measure.

"This is feudalism revisited," Whitehead noted.

The high court agreed with the Hornes, however, that no matter what constitutes property, if the government is taking any of it, then the government, per the Constitution, must provide that fair compensation.

Makes you wonder how a majority of justices can be so right on some issues, based on true constitutional interpretation, and so wrong on others.

Sources:

www.lewrockwell.com

http://www.supremecourt.gov[PDF]

http://reason.com

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