Posts Tagged ‘agriculture and farming’

Supreme Court hears raisin case again

Yesterday the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Horne v. USDA, with many Justices skeptical of the government’s position that it can seize nearly half of a family’s raisin crop under a USDA program without creating a “taking” for which it would owe just compensation under the Fifth Amendment of the Bill of Rights. Cato filed an amicus brief on behalf of the raisin-farming Horne family, as it had also done at earlier stages of the protracted case [our earlier coverage; my colleague Trevor Burrus’s write-up from March; Damon Root, Reason] And The Daily Show (“raisin outlaw”).

U.S. Department of Labor’s blueberry squeeze goes wrong

I’ve got a new piece at Reason on how the U.S. Department of Labor stepped over the line when — relying on an obscure “hot goods” provision of the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act — it slapped an order on two Oregon blueberry growers forbidding them from selling their crop until they settled a (dubious) DoL demand for back pay for workers. Having no choice in this forfeiture-like situation, the growers went along, but when things were brought to a federal court’s attention, the Obama administration got slapped down hard. Further observations at Cato at Liberty.

We mentioned the case in October, and developments last year drew coverage critical of the Administration’s tactics from a Wall Street Journal editorial, Jared Meyer at Economics 21, and George Leef at Forbes. For contrary views, see Catherine Ruckelshaus of the National Employment Law Project in Salon, with typical let-us-reason-together Salon framing (“lies… disingenuous… lost its mind”); Fair Warning; and Sachin Pandya, Workplace Prof. More coverage of the recent settlement and dropping of charges: AP, Oregonian, Fair Warning, and Trey Kovacs/WorkplaceChoice.org. More: Daniel Schwartz noting October 2014 DoL fact sheet.

SCOTUS to hear raisin takings case again

For a second time, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case in which federal agricultural marketing order regulations compelled the Horne family of California to surrender about half their raisin crop for little if any compensation. [Will Baude, Ilya Somin, Michael McConnell] A previous high court ruling had kicked the case back to the Ninth Circuit for further proceedings [earlier here and here.]

Should the Court deem the requisitions a taking for which compensation is due, the implications for other agricultural programs are considerable. “Similar USDA marketing order programs are in place for almonds, apricots, avocados, cherries (both sweet and tart), Florida and Texas citrus, cranberries, dates, grapes, hazelnuts, kiwifruit, olives, many onions and pears, pistachios, California plums and prunes, many potatoes, raisins, spearmint oil, tomatoes, and walnuts.” [Baylen Linnekin]

Also, wouldn’t this make a good illustration?

Environment roundup

  • Price of California eggs soars following animal-rights measure [WSJ via Michael Greve] “An Orangutan Has (Some) Human Rights, Argentine Court Rules” [Brandon Keim, Wired via Althouse, related U.S.]
  • Trees cut down by utility “are priceless — each one I could value at $100K,” Fieger said” [Detroit Free Press via @jamestaranto, more on Geoffrey Fieger; henceforth sums of $100,000 will be known as “one Fieger-tree”]
  • As New Englanders struggle with energy costs, pols kill the gas pipelines that could bring relief [Urbanophile]
  • Power-plant regs from EPA, based on flimsy science, show “federal agency twisting statutory language to aggrandize its own power.” [Andrew Grossman; Cato brief in Michigan v. EPA]
  • California state agency proposes regulations purportedly easing burdens of notorious Prop 65 warning law [Cal Biz Lit]
  • “When I got there, there were people in SWAT attire that evacuated our entire factory.” [Chamber’s Faces of Lawsuit Abuse on Gibson Guitar raid]
  • Would a minimalist state funded by Pigouvian taxes run a budget surplus? [Bryan Caplan]

Duluth library seed-sharing program may violate state law

The library in Duluth, Minn. may need to discontinue its seed sharing program, popular among local gardeners. “State agriculture regulators say the exchange — one of about 300 in the United States — violates the state’s seed law because it does not test seeds. … ‘The last thing you’d want to have is somebody goes in the library, picks up seed, and it doesn’t come up,” said Steve Malone, a supervisor in the department’s Plant Protection Division.'” That would be anarchy! [Minnesota Public Radio]

Food roundup

Labor and employment roundup

  • Court dismisses case against CVS in which EEOC had sought to redefine standard severance confidentiality provisions as unlawful retaliation [Jon Hyman, Daniel Schwartz, earlier here and here]
  • Temp-agency jobs brought in-house: “The NLRB Forces CNN to Rehire Workers Terminated Over a Decade Ago” [Alex Bolt, Workplace Choice]
  • “NLRB may encourage your employees to file OSHA, FLSA claims too” [Eric B. Meyer, Employer Handbook] “You’re NOT Paranoid — The Agencies ARE Ganging Up” [Dabney Ware, Foley & Lardner]
  • “The U.S. Department of Labor claims it can’t come up with the cash to fully reimburse Oregon farmers for the $220,000 it unlawfully coerced from them.” [Capital Press, Oregon] House committee flays department over use of “hot goods” orders to arm-twist growers of perishables on labor issues [committee, CQ via Dunn Carney, The Grower]
  • Sauce for gander: if left can push labor ordinances at county and municipal level, supporters of right-to-work laws might do the same thing [James Sherk and Andrew Kloster, Heritage]
  • “I wonder how large the overlap is between people who want Ray Rice banished from NFL forever and those who want to ‘ban the box'” — @Toirtap
  • Jacob Huebert on the Harris v. Quinn decision [new edition of Cato Supreme Court Review]

“Collateral Damage: A Farm Family Under Attack”

Video now out from Save Farm Families on the Hudson Farm case (earlier). Description:

Collateral Damage: Farm Families Under Attack reviews the questionable political and academic actions that enabled the New York-based Waterkeeper Alliance to push forward with its lawsuit against the Hudson family, and the continuing threat that environmental extremists pose to family farmers, not just in Maryland but across the nation.

I wrote about the case here, here, and here. It raises questions of legal ethics (when the mistaken factual basis for a claim is revealed, aren’t the attorneys obliged to withdraw it?), ideological adventurism in the environmental sphere by state-affiliated law schools, and the need for loser-pays. Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, who failed in a bid for the Democratic nomination for governor, comes off badly in the video, and America’s Most Irresponsible Public Figure® Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., even worse.

[cross-posted from my Maryland blog Free State Notes; more on RFK Jr.’s latest foray into public discussion, in which the celebrity scion/frothing hothead again demands the incarceration of various persons who take the opposite side from him in environmental controversy]

More coverage: Mark Newgent/Watchdog and Len Lazarick/Maryland Reporter.

Food roundup

  • Our posts on the closure of California’s Westover Winery following punitive fines for letting customers volunteer continue to draw interesting comments, including one from a reader identifying himself as William Smyth, owner of the winery;
  • FDA comes out with revised proposed FSMA rules, a preliminary look [AP] Agency only partially backs off restrictions on use of spent brewing grains as animal feed [Elizabeth Brown/Reason, WLF, earlier]
  • “Cottage food” law success: “Texans Created Over A Thousand Local Businesses After Texas Eased Restrictions On Selling Food” [Nick Sibilla, IJ/Forbes]
  • Artisanal salami maker eventually managed to persuade FDA that it should be permitted to ferment product at 72 degrees as the Italians do [WaPo] Craft sausage startup in Detroit “sort of operated under ‘do-things-until-you-get-caught” [Metro Times]
  • Does drinking diet soda make you fat? [Daniel Engber, Slate]
  • Kalona, Iowa maker of squeaky cheese curds cites mounting regulatory costs in decision to close (via Julie Gunlock) [Cedar Rapids Gazette]
  • Bee colonies getting sick: indictment of modern humanity’s interaction with nature? [Timothy Taylor, Conversable Economist]

Labor and employment roundup