* Farmers object to setting aside crops without payment
* 9th Circuit had upheld Great Depression-era program
By Jonathan Stempel
Nov 20 The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to address
what may constitute an improper government "taking," in an
appeal by California raisin growers who objected to a federal
program designed to stabilize supply and prices in the raisin
The court agreed to address the constitutionality of a
"reserve tonnage" program overseen by the U.S. Department of
Agriculture under a law dating from 1937, near the end of the
It requires raisin "handlers", who include farmers and
packers, to set aside part of their crops, in an effort to
prevent supply gluts and price volatility.
In the 2002-2003 and 2003-2004 years , 47 percent and 30
percent of the raisin crops, respectively, were set aside.
California produces virtually all U.S. raisins and about 40
percent of raisins worldwide, according to the California Raisin
Marvin and Laura Horne, the operators of Raisin Valley Farms
in central California, claimed that the reserve requirement
violated the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which
permits the federal government to take private property, but
requires it to pay "just compensation."
In July 2011, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in
Pasadena, California, rejected the Hornes' takings claim on the
merits, finding that the reserve requirement did not deprive
them of an ability to profit.
Eight months later, it revisited the issue and decided it
lacked jurisdiction to decide the takings claim, saying Congress
had allowed farmers like the Hornes to seek compensation in the
U.S. Court of Federal Claims, w hi ch handles lawsuits seeking
money from the government.
In their appeal, the Hornes called the reserve requirement
an improper "direct" appropriation of their crops, and said the
9th Circuit's findings conflicted with rulings from the Supreme
Court and five other federal appeals courts.
They received support from some private property advocates
including the Cato Institute, which said the 9th Circuit
approach would force property owners into a "Rube Goldberg"
hopscotch across different federal courts to recover.
The U.S. government had urged the Supreme Court not to
accept the appeal.
In a second case accepted for review, the Supreme Court
agreed to decide whether a doctor, who waited too long to sue
under a federal program over injuries caused by a vaccine, may
nevertheless be entitled to recover attorneys' fees and costs.
Oral arguments in both cases are likely to take place in
February or March, with decisions to follow by the end of June.
The cases are Horne et al v. U.S. Department of Agriculture,
U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12-123; and Sebelius v. Cloer, U.S.
Supreme Court, No. 12-236.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Howard
Goller and Leslie Gevirtz)