Networks Ignore SCOTUS Rule Against Government Raisin Robbery

Supreme Court rules against the USDA in favor of farmers who refused to surrender their crops without compensation.

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a New Deal-era farm program on June 22, saying it was unconstitutional for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to force raisin farmers to give the government their crops without payment.

ABC, CBS and NBC never reported on the legal fight or the latest court decision, which was more than a decade in the making.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of California raisin farmers Marvin and Laura Horne, reversing the Ninth Circuit’s previous ruling favoring the USDA.

“Any physical taking of them [raisins] for public use must be accompanied by just compensation,” Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr., wrote in the court’s majority opinion. He said that raisins “are private property— the fruit of the growers’ labor—not ‘public things subject to the absolute control of the state.’”

In 1949, a federal program instituted the Raisin Administrative Committee (an organization overseen by the USDA) in order to fix raisin prices. The program also created the National Raisin Reserve. The Washington Post reported in 2013 that for years the Hornes gave up their raisins, but in 2002 stopped complying with the government seizures.

While the Associated Press described the Supreme Court decision as a “victory for conservative groups that hailed the decision as a win for private property rights,” the broadcast news networks completely ignored the ruling. Moreover, not once did the networks discuss the Hornes’ case, which began when the farmers originally took the USDA to court in October 2008.

Non-network programs including FNC’s Special Report With Bret Baier and Varney & Company, MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show and PBS NewsHour, discussed the Supreme Court’s ruling.

When the Post profiled the Hornes, the farmers said, “It’s robbery. It’s communism. It’s socialism. It’s feudalism.” The Post also mocked the outdated program, calling it “a case study” in the government’s failure “to reexamine old laws.”

That article pointed out that the Hornes refused to comply after the Raisin Administrative Committee attempted to seize 47 percent of their raisin crop in 2003 and 30 percent in 2004. By 2013, the Hornes owed the U.S. government at least $650,000 in unpaid fines and 1.2 million pounds of unpaid raisins.

The USDA-managed program began President Harry Truman’s Marketing Order 989 and was intended to keep raisin prices artificially high because demand for raisins had dropped significantly after World War II.

Methodology: MRC Business examined the stories during the evening news shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC from Oct. 1, 2008, through the evening news programs on June 23, 2015, that mentioned raisin and court. This period included the time from when California raisin farmers Marvin and Laura Horne first took the USDA to court until after the U.S. Supreme Court decided in their favor. None of the resulting 44 stories discussed the Hornes, their case, or the USDA program. Several other searches in Nexis were also conducted including a search for the Hornes by name to confirm there was no network news coverage.