Supreme Court sides with Valley raisin grower

KERMAN, Calif. (KFSN) -- A small farmer from Fresno County won a big decision over the U.S. government. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled a federal program which has set aside raisins since 1949 to stabilize prices is unconstitutional.

Marvin Horne of Kerman was relieved and elated his 11-year legal battle was finally over. He said, "It really has been a burden."

Horne has been called a renegade raisin grower, but he said he's just a small farmer trying to survive on 100 acres of grapes. Horne said, "We always knew we were right. If you want my raisins just pay us for them."

In an 8-1 vote, the Supreme Court ruled the federal practice of putting part of a farmer's crop into the National Raisin Reserve amounted to a government "taking" of property.

Horne said, "It was just us defending ourselves against the Raisin Administrative Committee wanting us to pay them for our raisins that we didn't give them. They wanted to take them."

Clovis attorney Brian Leighton was part of Horne's legal team. He said, "This case has precious little to do with raisins. It is private property rights. The U.S. Supreme Court said it's a taking."

When the U.S. Department of Agriculture demanded 47 percent of Horne's crop in 2003, Marvin sought to take the middle man -- the handler -- out of the equation. Horne said, "It was just simple farmers trying to market their own product, which is what America is all about."

Between fines, penalties and interest, Marvin's legal team figured the USDA sought $1.5 million for raisins he never gave up. Marvin walked away with an eye for the future. He said, "It was a taking issue -- not complying with the marketing order."

Horne will now step up the online marketing of his Raisin Valley Farms "Los Tres Amigos" brand raisins, including chile and chocolate varieties.

The USDA would only say it is reviewing the case and will provide guidance based on the decision in the near future.
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