In a week of blockbuster United States Supreme Court rulings last month that included decisions ranging from gay marriage to voting rights and the Affordable Healthcare Act, raisins were easy to overlook. While raisins aren’t a staple of the Ohio agricultural economy, the underlying policy at issue could have implications for Champaign county and farmers in Central Ohio.
The Supreme Court held last month that the US Department of Agriculture’s “Marketing Order,” which forced raisin sellers to turn over a certain percentage of their raisins to the government without compensation, violated the Fifth Amendment. The policy had been in place since the 1930’s and took its last breath in 2015. Milk, which is also subject to USDA “Marketing Orders,” could be the next victim in the regulation of agri-sales.
The major crops for Central Ohio and Champaign County are corn and soybeans. Neither crop is currently the subject of USDA Marketing Orders. However, farm subsidies total nearly $18 billion a year, with corn and soybean subsidies totaling close to $9 billion a year. This will likely be a hot topic for 2016 presidential campaigns. The fear by court observers is that the Court could take an ax to other New Deal farm legislation.
Conservative standard bearers like Rick Santorum and Sen. Ted Cruz are already proposing an end to farm subsidies all together or significantly reducing the subsidies farmers receive. Additionally, there is growing frustration within Congress with the cost of farm subsidies and this Supreme Court decision has limited the tools by which Congress can regulate the agricultural marketplace.
With fewer legislative options available to Congress, farmers in Champaign County would be wise to pay close attention to proposals coming up next year, hearing it straight from the horse’s mouth and not get stuck hearing the bad news “through the grapevine.”
Brad Jeckering is an attorney practicing in the offices formerly occupied by William B. Saxbe. He loves Seinfeld, Ohio State football and sharing good food with family and friends. Send your suggestions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.