United States Supreme Court
June 22, 2015 (No. 14-275)
The U.S. Supreme Court held that a Department of Agriculture regulation which required raisin farmers to transfer a portion of their crop to the Federal Government was a taking under the Fifth Amendment.
The purpose of the regulation was to help stabilize the market for raisins. Growers would be required to set aside a percentage of each year’s crop, turning it over to a federal agency. The agency would then dispose of the raisins, possibly by sale, donation, or destruction, to keep the price for raisins at a stable level from year to year. If the raisins were sold, any net profits would be returned to the growers.
A group of growers refused to relinquish their raisins (47% of their annual crop), and were fined the market value of the crop, plus additional penalties.
The Court held that: (1) the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause applies to personal property (like crops and other personal property) as well as real estate; (2) the regulation was a physical appropriation of the grower’s property without full compensation; (3) the fact that the growers received any profits from the government’s disposal of the raisins does not mean that the regulation is not a taking; and (4) the program is not a voluntary exchange for a “valuable government benefit”–the right to sell produce in interstate commerce is not a benefit conferred by the government.