Victory! Raisin Growers Win in Landmark Supreme Court Case for Property Rights

June 11, 2015

On June 22nd, the US Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that the government cannot seize raisins from growers without paying for them. The case was Horne v. US Department of Agriculture.

The DKT Liberty Project, joined by 33 raisin growers, filed a friend-of-the-court (amicus) brief in the case in support of the Hornes, saying that the government’s actions were an unconstitutional “taking” and that the growers, who had often been forced to sell off acreage merely to survive, “simply want independence and a chance to live the American dream.”

Under a federal agricultural program started in 1937, raisin growers were frequently required to give over a portion of their annual crop to the US government and receive little or nothing in return.

In 2002-2003 and 2003-2004, Marvin and Laura Horne of Kerman, CA refused to relinquish the required 47% and 30% of their raisins, respectively, to the government, which then ned them $500,000. The Hornes sued, claiming that this was an unconstitutional “taking” that violated the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, which says, “…nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

Lower Courts had ruled that the Fifth Amendment only applied to real estate or land, not personal
property. Not so, the Supreme Court said: “The Government has a categorical duty to pay just compensation when it takes your car, just as when it takes your home.”

This important distinction will significantly support the rights of all Americans to their own property.