The Wikipedia article on Wickard v. Filburn claims that:

Filburn was ordered to destroy his crops...

Numerous other sources also claim this, including two that I would normally consider reliable.

The Globe and Mail:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture ordered the unauthorized wheat destroyed and fined him 49 cents a bushel for his illegal production: $117.11.

The New York Times:

That is why Roscoe Filburn, a small farmer in Ohio, had to destroy wheat that exceeded production quotas in a 1942 case, even though he was growing the wheat for his own use and had no intention to sell it.

However, I don't see anything in the record establishing that Filburn was ordered to destroy his crops, but rather, from my reading of the case, he was given the choice of paying a fine, delivery up to the Secretary, or storage.

The claim was added to the Wikipedia article on October 22, 2009, in this edit. I can't find any source that makes this same claim before October 22, 2009.

Where I've looked for evidence that he was ordered to destroy his crops and found none:

  • Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942)
  • Filburn v. Helke, 43 F. Supp. 1017 (S.D. Ohio 1942)
  • 27 Minn. L. Rev. 575 (1942-1943)
  • New York Times "The Power to Regulate" [New York, N.Y] 13 Nov 1942: 22.

The first volume of "Agriculture Decisions: Decisions of the Secretary of Agriculture Under the Regulatory Laws of the United States Department of Agriculture" was in 1942, so it doesn't reach far enough back.

Was Roscoe Filburn ordered to destroy his crops?

The evidence I have doesn't satisfy my needs because the New York Times and the Globe and Mail may have independently verified the claim or they may be repeating an unsourced wikipedia edit, and I haven't been able to examine the full record to confirm whether there was or was not an order to destroy the crops.

  • Given this appears to be a simple unsourced Wikipedia edit, accepted as fact by journalists, and you have consulted the original sources, what further evidence would you accept? Maybe this would be best served as a Wikipedia edit.
    – Oddthinking
    Jul 18, 2013 at 16:21
  • 1
    @Oddthinking I would accept: a) a source from 1941 that shows the actual order/penalty given by the Department of Agriculture, b) the docket and transcript from Filburn v. Helke and Wickard v. Filburn, c) a contemporaneous interview by Filburn where he describes the penalty, d) any other primary source that establishes the answer to this question one way or the other.
    – user5582
    Jul 18, 2013 at 16:31
  • 2
    My suggestion of an edit to Wikipedia would be instead of asking a question here that seems to have the answer embedded in it. I'm not sure (ignorant) why you need the docket or transcript when you have read the ruling.
    – Oddthinking
    Jul 18, 2013 at 16:52

1 Answer 1


No. While it's possible that he was ordered to destroy his crops, no record of that order was published.

See Chen, James Ming, The Story of Wickard v. Filburn: Agriculture, Aggregation, and Commerce (September 15, 2008). CONSTITUTIONAL LAW STORIES, Michael C. Dorf, ed., 2d ed., Foundation Press, 2008; University of Louisville School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper Series No. 2008-40. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1268162:

Officials charged with administering the Agricultural Adjustment Act in Montgomery County assessed a penalty of 49 cents on each of Filburn's 239 excess bushels and imposed a lien on his entire wheat crop against the $117.11 penalty. Pending payment, the county committee also withheld Filburn's marketing card, which he needed in order to sell his wheat.

In my opinion, Chen's work is a comprehensive summary of the story of Wickard v. Filburn. Based on his footnotes, it seems he had access to the merit briefs during the writing of this article. If Filburn had been ordered to destroy his crops, I believe Chen would have mentioned it.


You must log in to answer this question.