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Horne v. Dep’t of Agriculture

Justia Summary

The Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to promulgate orders to maintain stable markets for agricultural products. The marketing order for raisins established a Raisin Administrative Committee, which requires that growers set aside a percentage of their crop, free of charge. The government sells the reserve raisins in noncompetitive markets, donates them, or disposes of them by any means consistent with the purposes of the program. If any profits are left over after subtracting administration expenses, the net proceeds are distributed back to the growers. In 2002–2003, growers were required to set aside 47 percent of their raisin crop; in 2003–2004, 30 percent. The Hornes refused to set aside any raisins on the ground that the reserve requirement was an unconstitutional taking of their property for public use without just compensation. The government fined them the fair market value of the raisins, with additional civil penalties. On remand from the Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit held that the requirement was not a Fifth Amendment taking. The Supreme Court reversed. The Fifth Amendment requires that the government pay just compensation when it takes personal property, just as when it takes real property. The reserve requirement is a clear physical taking. Actual raisins are transferred. Any net proceeds the growers receive from the sale of the reserve raisins goes to the amount of compensation, but does not mean the raisins have not been taken. This taking cannot be characterized as part of a voluntary exchange for a valuable government benefit. The ability to sell produce in interstate commerce, while subject to reasonable government regulation, is not a “benefit” that the government may withhold unless growers waive constitutional protections. The Court noted that just compensation can be measured by the market value the government already calculated when it fined the Hornes.

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