Grape growers can now sue the USDA

posted at 3:31 pm on November 27, 2012 by Erika Johnsen

On Monday, the Supreme Court conspicuously declined to review a case that will now stand in the favor of growers who want to sue the U.S. Department of Agriculture California Table Grape Commission over grapevine patents — to which I say, good. McClatchy reports:

In a decision noteworthy for farmers nationwide, the high court declined to review a lower court’s ruling that waived USDA’s customary immunity from lawsuits. The decision, issued without comment, effectively upholds the earlier appellate ruling and gives a green light for further legal battle over the “Scarlet Royal” and “Autumn King” grapevine variety patents.

“It’s part of an effort by growers to curtail the power grab by the table grape commission,” Lawrence Hadley, an attorney for the growers who are challenging the patents, said Monday. “Our clients believe the grape commission has overextended its authority, to really insert itself into private industry and become more of a regulatory body instead of a promotions program.” …

“They deserve to be sued,” prominent Visalia, Calif.-area grape grower and nursery owner Luther J. Khachigian said Monday. “They don’t belong in the nursery business . . . they’re interfering in a business they don’t know anything about.” …

The potential implications also could extend beyond California’s $1.4 billion-a-year table grape industry, as federal agencies control many patents.

I know it seems like a pretty small thing that directly affects relatively few people, and that’s because it is, but the Department of Agriculture is exactly that — a convoluted bureaucracy chock-full of a bunch of miniscule, highly specific rules and regulations that serve to benefit particular producers, and just understanding table grape patents isn’t necessarily the takeaway here.

The federal government can’t generally be sued unless Congress has waived their traditional sovereign immunity, but the USDA and its auxiliaries’ many farm programs have long since ceased to be of any meaningful use to the American economy at large (and I’m not convinced that, even in the New-Deal days, they were ever of any productive use). The USDA wastes billions of taxpayer dollars every year doling out what is essentially corporate welfare (most of their subsidies go to large agribusinesses, not family farms), imposing tariffs and regulations that directly distort free-market signals and make food more expensive, and enforcing what are basically rackets in areas like the dairy industry and crop-insurance business.

The central planning and countless cost-consuming middlemen constantly spinning out of the USDA’s top-down rulebook too often manage to easily fly beneath the radar, and while this specific case may only be to the benefit of a few and be delving into tricky patent laws, I’m thinking that the more precedent that citizens have at their disposal to challenge the USDA’s economic hubris, the better.


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One small victory for liberty against the Leviathan.

rbj on November 27, 2012 at 3:35 PM

Sue the bastards.

Tater Salad on November 27, 2012 at 3:35 PM

It’s better than whining.

Flange on November 27, 2012 at 3:37 PM

“imposing tariffs and regulations that directly distort free-market signals ”

But in Keynesian economics, which dominates government ideology, free trade isn’t always the best outcome for a nation. Using these mechanisms, you can manipulate the net national welfare figure while protecting producers. So long as the net national welfare comes out positive, the USDA doesn’t care about the average consumer.

Washington Fancy on November 27, 2012 at 3:39 PM

Well at least the SC did this correct!
L

letget on November 27, 2012 at 3:39 PM

AS if the USDA is the only agency that sticks their nose into private business.

Food and Drug is one of the worst offenders, but they all should be sued.

right2bright on November 27, 2012 at 3:41 PM

A rare win for the anti-statists.

dczombie on November 27, 2012 at 3:43 PM

Raisins:

http://www.freeenterprise.com/regulations/raisin-hell-supreme-court

And for the last 80 years, the federal government has required raisin producers to “give thanks” for the privilege of selling their raisins nationally by requiring them to fork over up to half of their raisins – for free. A lawsuit raising a constitutional challenge to the program has now made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The case is Horne v. Department of Agriculture.

The program, operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has a rather Orwellian-sounding name – the “Raisin Marketing Order.” In a nutshell, under this program, every year, as a condition for “letting” farmers sell their raisin crops in interstate commerce, the federal government has taken up to 47% of the farmers’ raisins – often for no payment at all, or below the cost of producing the raisins. The program has its origins in Great Depression efforts to fix the prices of agricultural crops. Don’t care much for raisins? Similar programs cover a variety of other agricultural products, such as walnuts, almonds, prunes, tart cherries – and cranberries!

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/11/19/175089/grapes-and-raisins-of-wrath-supreme.html

INC on November 27, 2012 at 3:44 PM

Sudden interest in grapes by EPA in 4,3,2…

wolly4321 on November 27, 2012 at 3:45 PM

“It’s part of an effort by growers to curtail the power grab by the table grape commission,”

power grab by the table grape commission…our bureaucracy knows no bounds

menacetosobriety on November 27, 2012 at 3:45 PM

…the high court declined to review a lower court’s ruling that waived USDA’s customary immunity from lawsuits…

wow, Cesar Chavez lives. Like Pigford, another massive payout through the agency that has unlimited resources to give, too many clients to count, and no one to take responsibility as the effort to proceed with redistribution of wealth hums along.

DanMan on November 27, 2012 at 3:48 PM

Well at least the SC did this correct!
L

letget on November 27, 2012 at 3:39 PM

When the USDA loses a lawsuit, who ends up coughing up the award money?

Us.

This ruling will simply cause the USDA to add a line item to its budget request each year: “Money we’re going to lose in lawsuits”

BobMbx on November 27, 2012 at 3:49 PM

Lawyers everywhere rejoice!

Taxpayers get hosed!

portlandon on November 27, 2012 at 3:51 PM

Prollem is it will be our tax dollars they’ll be giving away when the lawsuits fly. Now, if the individual(s) who came up with this statist dreck were liable for damages…

Prop Gun on November 27, 2012 at 3:54 PM

a convoluted bureaucracy chock-full of a bunch of miniscule, highly specific rules and regulations that serve to benefit particular producers,

Sigh. Minuscule, please.

http://public.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/miniscule.html

BuckeyeSam on November 27, 2012 at 4:09 PM

It was just as unjust and destructive during the New Deal, which I lived through, as it is now. I strongly object to the narative that family farms should be treated differently than agribusinesses.

burt on November 27, 2012 at 4:13 PM

Grape growers can now sue the USDA

Yea…. But can they do Math? A little ridiculous gibberish.

SWalker on November 27, 2012 at 4:15 PM

BobMbx on November 27, 2012 at 3:49 PM

Sure the taxpayers pay for any lawsuits against the government. Do you support businesses just letting every fed agency getting away with what they do and just have those cave? I sure don’t. I would rather pay for this than a car that catches on fire that costs the taxpayers 80+K to make and sold for 40+K we fund at gov.motors! We are going to get it one way or the other, big bro has seen to it!
Do I like it, not one single bit do I!
L

letget on November 27, 2012 at 4:18 PM

power grab by the table grape commission…our bureaucracy knows no bounds

menacetosobriety on November 27, 2012 at 3:45 PM

I don’t have the time or the inclination to look it up, but I’ll bet ya’ll a grand the “director” of the table grape association makes about $150k a year and has a staff and budget that would pay for a small country’s annual expenditures somewhere…all to control effin grape’s…..

now take that times about 1000 bogus agencies just like it and tell me we need to raise taxes?????????????????????????????

Thieving basta*ds….

Tim Zank on November 27, 2012 at 4:57 PM

Under the licensing agreement, the Agriculture Department keeps 60 percent of the revenues and the California Table Grape Commission keeps the remaining 40 percent.

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/11/26/175582/grape-growers-can-sue-usda-as.html#storylink=cpy

So why would anyone grow them to begin with? Talk about highway robbery.

Cindy Munford on November 27, 2012 at 5:51 PM

The first to collect damages with a lawsuit will probably be Pelosi with all her interests in vineyards.

News2Use on November 27, 2012 at 5:53 PM

…stimulus!

KOOLAID2 on November 27, 2012 at 8:59 PM