The raisin reserve is a program established by the Truman administration which gives the Agriculture Department a heavy-handed power to meddle in the supply and demand for raisins.
To limit the supply of raisins on the market, the government can simply take tons of raisins from the farmers who grew them. The raisins go into a “reserve.” They are often kept off the U.S. market: sold overseas, perhaps, or given to needy schoolchildren.
Sometimes, the farmers don’t get paid a cent in return.
A decade ago, California farmer Marvin Horne defied the reserve, refusing to hand over his raisins to the government. The Agriculture Department took him to court, and this year the case reached the U.S. Supreme Court.
The high court sent Horne’s case back to an appeals court in California, which will soon hear Horne’s argument that the Constitution prohibits government from taking his raisins without just compensation. Horne’s case was featured in a Washington Post article in early July.
On Thursday, Rep. Trey Radel (R) introduced a bill that would eliminate the reserve’s legal underpinnings. It would end the 1949 rule, Marketing Order 989, that created the Raisin Administrative Committee and the reserve.
“In my opinion, this is nothing short of theft,” said Radel, a freshman member from the Fort Myers area. He said he had no ties to the raisin industry or to raisin farmers, mainly located thousands of miles away in Northern California.
“I think it violates the Fifth Amendment [principle] of just compensation,” Radel said. “Because there’s no compensation. Because they just go in there and take the raisins.”
Radel’s bill has been referred to the House Agriculture Committee, of which Radel is not a member.