His offense? Selling all of the raisins that he grows.
In California, the Raisin Administrative Committee (RAC), which is made up of raisin farmers, gets together to determine how many raisins to sell each year. The RAC then submits their plan to the Department of Agriculture which approves the production guidelines. If the year’s crop is expected to be especially good, farmers must give a portion of their crop to the federal government at no charge in order to build raisin reserves and keep prices stable. Over time, the government sells some of these raisins and returns a portion of what they earn to the farmers.
This approach is said to protect raisin farmers from a fall in prices which could cause many to go out of business. Looked at from a consumer’s perspective, the approach keeps the price of raisins artificially high. In most businesses, the actions of the RAC would be termed collusion.
For Marvin Horne, his failure to follow these guidelines has resulted in a lawsuit brought against him by the Federal Government. The charge? Not following the Raisin Marketing Order of 1949 pursuant to the Agriculture Marketing Agreement of 1937. The charges are based on Horne selling his whole crop from 2002 to 2004 rather than giving between 30-47% of his crop to the federal government. Horne’s failure to give them his crop has resulted in potential fines and penalties that could total as much as $1.5 million, not to mention ten years of legal bills.
Many California raisin farmers are hoping that this law, termed “the world’s most outdated law” by Justice Elena Kagan is overturned. The Obama Administration supports the law while Justice Stephen Breyer is dumbfounded by an argument that keeps prices artificially high on all Americans.
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