One of the more durable legacies of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s was the idea that the farm economy can be bolstered by paying growers to keep some of their crop off the market, or paying them not to grow some of it at all. One of those programs ran into a high constitutional fence on Monday, raising at least some question about how long the idea can continue unchanged.
Depending on how farmers, and their lawyers, interpret the new decision in Horne v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, it could pose a threat to a wide range of government subsidy programs that seek to keep crop prices up by keeping supply down. That formula has been used since 1949 for the California raisin industry under a 1937 farm law, but its future is in doubt. What happens to other farm regulatory programs will have to await further development.
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