According to a New Deal-era law, the USDA has legally forced raisin farmers to surrender a portion of their crop as a part of price stabilization in the market.
That reality forced a lawsuit against the agency brought by raisin farmers who argued that forced confiscation of property is unconstitutional and harkens back to the American Revolution in which colonials were forced to surrender their goods to British soldiers.
In a rare 8-1 decision, all but one member of the Supreme Court agreed that the taking by the USDA of actual physical property is a violation of 5th Amendment in that there has been no justification for doing so under health or safety provisions in federal law.
In more than one instance, justices compared the law to communism likening the USDA’s policy to “central planning” strategies by Russia.
The lone justice to vote for upholding the regulation was Obama appointee Sonia Sotomayor who argued that since the law did not completely transgress farmers’ property rights — it leaves them “a little intact” — and therefore should be left in place.
For more than 75 years, the agency’s policy has forced raisin farmers to surrender in some cases nearly half of their crop to federal control in order to be allowed to sell the remaining raisins.