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Court ruling on raisins could impact all U.S. ag marketing

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WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court opened the door Monday for California raisin growers to challenge the constitutionality of a Depression-era farming law that requires them to keep part of their annual crop off the market.

In a 9-0 ruling, the justices cleared the way for Marvin and Laura Horne from Fresno to argue that this “mandatory reserve” program takes away their private property without just compensation.

This is America, not a communist state,” they said upon filing their suit. They cited years in which producers were required to send 47 percent and 30 percent of their crop to a “reserve pool” controlled by a government-sponsored marketing board.

These raisins may be given to schools for their lunch programs or sold overseas, but the growers often receive little or nothing for these raisins, they said.

The high court’s ruling was procedural only. It sent the Hornes’ case back to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to decide whether this forced taking of part of their raisin crop is unconstitutional. But if they were to prevail in the case, it could lead to a broad challenge to government-sponsored agricultural marketing orders.