Saying no to the (who knew?) national raisin reserve

Raisins

Photo by Mariam via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC 2.0)

David A. Fahrenthold at The Washington Post penned a fascinating story recently about one farmer’s decision to opt out of a decades-old federal farm-support program. As he describes,

In the world of dried fruit, America has no greater outlaw than Marvin Horne, 68.

Horne, a raisin farmer, has been breaking the law for 11 solid years. He now owes the U.S. government at least $650,000 in unpaid fines. And 1.2 million pounds of unpaid raisins, roughly equal to his entire harvest for four years.

His crime? Horne defied one of the strangest arms of the federal bureaucracy — a farm program created to solve a problem during the Truman administration, and never turned off.

He said no to the national raisin reserve….

It works like this: In a given year, the government may decide that farmers are growing more raisins than Americans will want to eat. That would cause supply to outstrip demand. Raisin prices would drop. And raisin farmers might go out of business.

To prevent that, the government does something drastic. It takes away a percentage of every farmer’s raisins. Often, without paying for them.

Horne’s refusal has landed him in court. In fact, the legal wrangling made it all the way to the Supreme Court this spring, but the saga isn’t over yet. For the full story, head here for Fahrenthold’s article as well as a short video version of the story.

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