Washington Post Profiles ‘Outlaw’ Raisin Farmer Fighting to End the U.S. Raisin Reserve

Paper highlights problem of government intervention about outdated law stealing from farmers.

Government intervention always has consequences, and in the case of the federal raisin reserve The Washington Post found out it is hurting the very farmers it was meant to help. Even the Post mocked the outdated law and positively portrayed the farmer who is battling to end it.

According to the July 8 Post, under President Truman in 1949, the government told raisin farmers they couldn’t keep all their product with Marketing Order 989. World War II had just ended and the government no longer needed to buy mass quantities of raisins for soldiers, so demand dropped. To keep prices artificially high, the government decided enacted a law that forced farmers to set aside a “raisin reserve” for the federal government to sell itself, in the aims of keeping the raisin industry afloat.

Decades later, one farmer angered by the “robbery” of his raisins quit going along with it. The Post profiled this California farmer, 68-year-old Marvin Horne who has been growing raisins since 1969. After years of surrendering his product to the government without compensation, in 2002, he was sick and tired of having to set aside significant portions of his crops for the federal government, and receiving nothing in return. So he disobeyed the law and started keeping 100 percent of his harvest.

“It’s robbery. It’s communism. It’s socialism. It’s feudalism ...” Horne told the Post.

Pretty soon he was in big trouble, with the government even hiring private detectives to investigate Horne’s activities. For months, agents actually sat outside Horne’s house and videotaped his every movement. Rocky Pipkin, one of the undercover detectives in the case told the paper. “We wanted to try to record ... the raisins coming in, or the raisins going out.”

Horne has been locked in a legal battle with the government which has gone after him for noncompliance. The Post said, “Since then, his life has now become a case study in one of Washington’s bad habits — a tendency never to reexamine old laws once they’re on the books. Even ones like this.”

So Horne’s case case made it before the Supreme Court. The Justices seemed to be on his side but couldn’t rule on the constitutionality of the dried-fruit-dilemma. Justice Elena Kagan remarked it was probably “just the world’s most outdated law,” and Justice Antonin Scalia joked, “Your raisins or your life, right?”

The Supreme Court sent the case back to the 9th Circuit Court to decide if the law is unconstitutional.

The stakes are high for Horne. He told the Post, “If we lose, we’re bankrupt. We won’t have a pot to piss in.” He estimates he would be liable for about $3 million in fines and the value of the raisins he didn’t give to the government.“No. I don’t want to even think about it. Would you?”