SCOTUS Rejects USDA’s Raisin Cartel

A couple years ago I posted (here) about a lawsuit progressing through the courts concerning the USDA’s raisin marketing order. The Raisin Administrative Committee (RAC) basically sets a quota on the amount of raisins that can be marketed in a given year as a way of maintaining high-priced raisins. The RAC requires produ799184_1280x720cers to turn a portion of their crop over to the RAC, which then markets the “excess” raisins to other countries or uses.

Today, the US Supreme Court ruled in Horne v. Department of Agriculture that the USDA-sponsored Raisin Administrative Committee’s process amounts to an unconstitutional governmental “taking”. Apparently the decision is limited to the raisin program and it opens the doors to other ways for the USDA to control the raisin market, but the decision also raises questions about the constitutionality of other agricultural commodity programs.

 

Wrinkles In The US Raisin Cartel

Cartel sounds much sexier than “marketing order”, doesn’t it? But that’s basically what it is…and some of the cartel members are not happy.

It didn’t receive the attention some other recent US Supreme Court cases did, but a couple weeks ago in Horne v. Department of Agriculture the SCOTUS heard arguments about whether mandatory marketing order set-asides amount to federal takings and should be compensated. This case has tremendous potential impact for upward of 30 agricultural products governed by marketing orders run under the auspices of the USDA. These marketing orders date back to the 1930s and were an attempt by agricultural producers to increase the prices they received for the products by disposing of “excess production”. In other words, farmers of the 1930s got the federal government to institute a national cartel for the purposes of raising the price of food…and those cartels continue to operate today.

So how does that work?

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