Raisin Farmer Battles Feds Over Depression-era Regulation

If you were a raisin grower, would you be willing to give up nearly half your crop to the government for free?

Kerman farmer Marvin Horne refused to do just that in 2002.

Back then, he was told the government wanted nearly 47 percent of his crop.

Now he faces millions in fines.

"It's unbelievable that it happened right here in the San Joaquin Valley, the bread basket of the world," Horne said. "This whole thing started because I want to grow my grapes, make raisins, clean and sell them myself."

At the center of the dispute is a law passed by Congress in 1937. The law aimed at protecting farmers by controlling supply and demand for dried grapes after the Great Depression.

The law created the Fresno-based Raisin Administration Committee.

"In the last three years, the Raisin Administration has declared no volume regulation so growers have received 100 percent of their crop," said Gary Schultz, president of the Raisin Administration Committee.

In any given year,{} Schultz said, the government can decide that farmers are growing more raisins than Americans will want to eat, causing supply to outstrip demand. So, the government is allowed to take a percentage of every farmer's raisins, putting them into a government controlled reserve.

"We've gotten to this point because in the early 2000's when there was an imbalance of supply and demand the industry disciplined itself collectively in terms of reducing that surplus," Schultz said.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court, gave Horne a partial victory, and ordered it back to a lower court to decide.

Horne says he doesn't want to think about what will happen if he ultimately loses the case. So, until a final decision is made, he says that he will grow his grapes and watch them dry into raisins