From the You Can’t Make This Stuff Up department: A California raisin farmer is facing bankruptcy for defying a law requiring him to give the federal government a portion of his raisin crop – without compensation.
According to The Washington Post, in the world of dried fruit, there is no greater outlaw in America than Marvin Horne of Kervin, California.
Horne, a raisin farmer, has been breaking the law for 11 straight years. Moreover, he now owes the U.S. government at least $650,000 in unpaid fines. And 1.2 million pounds of unpaid raisins – roughly equal to his entire harvest for four years.
Horne’s crime? He defied one of the most bizarre and outdated arms of the federal bureaucracy – a farm program created during the Truman administration:
Marvin said no to the National Raisin Reserve. (I’m not making this up.)
As described by Hot Air, the U.S. government started the National Raisin Reserve in 1937. Fearing that raisin producers might produce too many raisins – thereby leading to a drop in prices – the government began confiscating [stealing] a percentage of raisin production – for raisin farmers’ own good, of course. The problem is, Marvin Horne doesn’t see it that way:
“I believe in America. And I believe in our Constitution. And I believe that eventually we will be proved right,” Horne said recently, sitting in an office next to 20 acres of ripening Thompson grapes. “They took our raisins and didn’t pay us for them.”
The Washington Post reports that Horne stopped giving raisins to the government in 2002, thereby violating Marketing Order 989 – the federal regulation that established the raisin reserve and made “contributions” by raisin farmers mandatory.
Even worse? The government can save the raisins, sell them on foreign markets (and keep the money), throw them away, or even feed them to animals – just as long as it keeps them off the domestic market.
So, Marvin Horne did what any good raisin producer worth his weight in grapes would do; he sued the government. After several losses in lower courts, Horne’s case reached the Supreme Court this spring, where things changed.
Justice Elena Kagan wondered whether it might be “just the world’s most outdated law.” Justice Stephen Breyer said: “What it does is it takes raisins that we grow – in effect, throws them in the river,” “Your raisins or your life, right?” joked Justice Antonin Scalia.
The Court issued its ruling and gave Horne a partial victory. A lower court had rejected Horne’s challenge of the law. Now, the justices told that court to reconsider it.
Marvin Horne says that if he loses, it’s all over.
“If we lose, we’re bankrupt. We won’t have a pot to piss in,” Horne said, noting he would be liable for nearly $3 million. “No. I don’t want to even think about it. Would you?”
Regardless of the outcome of the case of Marvin Horne vs. the National Raisin Reserve, I don’t think I’ll ever look at raisins the same way again.