I wanted some insight on this article, as I have not been to this website before and the claims seem over the top to me.

64-year-old federal raisin-marketing program that can require raisin farmers, as a condition to selling their raisins in interstate commerce, to fork over to the government a portion of their crops—as much as 47% in some years—often for no payment or below the cost of producing the raisins.

I can buy this, historically it made sense with some products to reduce what was sold to keep more farmers in the market, or pay farmers to destroy crops. Generally the laws meant to prevent a flood of crops and keep the farmers in business for the more harsh years. So why are raisin farmers not reimbursed?

Where I really start to feel things are not accurate though is:

It wasn't long before the Department of Agriculture (USDA) began monitoring and harassing the Hornes, their staff, and their buyers, according to Marvin. “They stopped my employees’ children and scared them. They stopped the trucks hauling our products and asked the drivers if they knew they were hauling contraband,” he says. “They also harassed our buyers, subpoenaed their records, and asked how many raisins they bought. I don’t think any businessman in America has ever been as harassed as we were.”

Does the USDA really have this much power? And are they not acting at least partially outside of the law? It seems as though if there were a real violation the USDA would be able to shut the operations down. Harassment as described is never legal or allowable within the US government, is it? Or is there some sort of "perfect storm" allowances here with raisin farmers being a small group?

Skimming through this, it appears the raisin reserves are sold in a way that is supposed to bring fair returns to the farmers

(d)(1) Reserve tonnage raisins shall be sold to handlers at prices and in a manner intended to maximum producer returns and achieve maximum disposition of such raisins by the time reserve tonnage raisins from the subsequent crop year are available.

So what the heck is going on here? How much truth is there to the original article and is this applicable anywhere else? I knew the US government paid to keep a surplus of food out of the stores, but do they also bully producers as a standard practice?

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    "Does the USDA really have this much power?" It doesn't take much official power to be a bully. And many branches of the U.S. government have been accused of bullying, and probably many, if not most of the allegations have at least some amount of truth behind them.
    – Flimzy
    Apr 28, 2013 at 7:45
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    The raisin industry is apparently not only a weird exception to many laws the US has on industry cartels and industry price setting, but required to have a cartel by law. There was a radio piece which I believe is this one that I heard some years ago. npr.org/sections/money/2013/08/09/210490760/…
    – RomaH
    Feb 2, 2017 at 19:51

1 Answer 1


Yes, the actions of the USDA were found to be unconstitutional in HORNE ET AL. v. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE in 2015 after the OP question was asked.

The decision states:

In 2002–2003, raisin growers were required to set aside 47 percent of their raisin crop under the reserve requirement. In 2003–2004, 30 percent. Marvin Horne, Laura Horne, and their family are raisin growers who refused to set aside any raisins for the Government on the ground that the reserve requirement was an unconstitutional taking of their property for public use without just compensation. The Government fined the Hornes the fair market value of the raisins as well as additional civil penalties for their failure to obey the raisin marketing order.


The Fifth Amendment requires that the Government pay just compensation when it takes personal property, just as when it takes real property. Any net proceeds the raisin growers receive from the sale of the reserve raisins goes to the amount of compensation they have received for that taking—it does not mean the raisins have not been appropriated for Government use. Nor can the Government make raisin growers relinquish their property without just compensation as a condition of selling their raisins in interstate commerce.

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