U.S. top court rules for California farmers over government raisin program

File photo of the U.S. flag flying in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington
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The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday in favor of California farmers challenging a Depression-era federal program that requires raisin producers to put aside a proportion of their crop without guaranteed compensation.

In an 8-1 decision, the court said the program constitutes the taking of property without compensation in violation of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

In an opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the court said the government should pay Marvin and Laura Horne, who run Raisin Valley Farms in California, the market value of the raisins and relieve them of the fine that was imposed. The total value is around $700,000.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture program traces its roots to the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act, which was passed in 1937 to control the prices of certain agricultural products at a time of declining commodity prices.

The Hornes objected to the application of the law to the raisin market. Each year, a certain proportion of the crop is set aside in order to maintain price stability.

The leftover raisins are then used for government programs, such as school lunches. Farmers can receive compensation if any funds are left over.

The Hornes came into conflict with the government when they came up with a plan to circumvent the program by packing and marketing their own raisins. That would make them exempt from the program, they said.

The government disagreed and sanctioned the Hornes for the 2002-2003 and 2003-2004 seasons.

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