317 U.S. 111 (1942), 59, Wickard v. Filburn

Docket Nº:No. 59
Citation:317 U.S. 111, 63 S.Ct. 82, 87 L.Ed. 122
Party Name:Wickard v. Filburn
Case Date:November 09, 1942
Court:United States Supreme Court

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317 U.S. 111 (1942)

63 S.Ct. 82, 87 L.Ed. 122




No. 59

United States Supreme Court

Nov. 9, 1942

Argued May 4, 1942

Reargued October 13, 1942




1. Pending a referendum vote of farmers upon wheat quotas proclaimed by the Secretary of Agriculture under the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938, the Secretary made a radio address in which he advocated approval of the quotas and called attention to the recent enactment by Congress of the amendatory act, later approved

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May 26, 1941. The speech mentioned the provisions of the amendment for increase of loans on wheat, but not the fact that it also increased the penalty on excess production, and added that, because of the uncertain world situation, extra acreages of wheat had been deliberately planted, and "farmers should not be penalized because they have provided insurance against shortages of food." There was no evidence that the subsequent referendum vote approving the quotas was influenced by the speech.

Held, that, in any event, and even assuming that the penalties referred to in the speech were those prescribed by the Act, the validity of the vote was not thereby affected. P. 117.

2. The wheat marketing quota and attendant penalty provisions of the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938, as amended by the Act of May 26, 1941, when applied to wheat not intended in any part for commerce but wholly for consumption on the farm, are within the commerce power of Congress. P. 118.

3. The effect of the Act is to restrict the amount of wheat which may be produced for market and the extent as well to which one may forestall resort to the market by producing for his own needs. P. 127.

4. That the production of wheat for consumption on the farm may be trivial in the particular case is not enough to remove the grower from the scope of federal regulation where his contribution, taken with that of many others similarly situated, is far from trivial. P. 127.

5. The power to regulate interstate commerce includes the power to regulate the prices at which commodities in that commerce are dealt in and practices affecting such prices. P. 128.

6. A factor of such volume and variability as wheat grown for home consumption would have a substantial influence on price conditions on the wheat market, both because such wheat, with rising prices, may flow into the market and check price increases and, because, though never marketed, it supplies the need of the grower which would otherwise be satisfied by his purchases in the open market. P. 128.

7. The amendatory Act of May 26, 1941, which increased the penalty upon "farm marketing excess" and included in that category wheat which previously had not been subject to penalty, held not invalid as retroactive legislation repugnant to the Fifth Amendment when applied to wheat planted and growing before it was enacted, but harvested and threshed thereafter. P. 131.

43 F.Supp. 1017, reversed.

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APPEAL from a decree of the District Court of three judges which permanently enjoined the Secretary of Agriculture and other appellants from enforcing certain penalties against the appellee, a farmer, under the Agricultural Adjustment Act.

JACKSON, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON delivered the opinion of the Court.

The appellee filed his complaint against the Secretary of Agriculture of the United States, three members of the County Agricultural Conservation Committee for Montgomery County, Ohio, and a member of the State Agricultural Conservation Committee for Ohio. He sought to enjoin enforcement against himself of the marketing penalty imposed by the amendment of May 26, 1941,1 to the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938,2 upon that part of his 1941 wheat crop which was available for marketing in excess of the marketing quota established for his farm. He also sought a declaratory judgment that the wheat marketing quota provisions of the Act, as amended and applicable to him, were unconstitutional because not sustainable

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under the Commerce Clause or consistent with the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

The Secretary moved to dismiss the action against him for improper venue, but [63 S.Ct. 84] later waived his objection and filed an answer. The other appellants moved to dismiss on the ground that they had no power or authority to enforce the wheat marketing quota provisions of the Act, and, after their motion was denied, they answered, reserving exceptions to the ruling on their motion to dismiss.3 The case was submitted for decision on the pleadings and upon a stipulation of facts.

The appellee for many years past has owned and operated a small farm in Montgomery County, Ohio, maintaining a herd of dairy cattle, selling milk, raising poultry, and selling poultry and eggs. It has been his practice to raise a small acreage of winter wheat, sown in the Fall and harvested in the following July; to sell a portion of the crop; to feed part to poultry and livestock on the farm, some of which is sold; to use some in making flour for home consumption, and to keep the rest for the following seeding. The intended disposition of the crop here involved has not been expressly stated.

In July of 1940, pursuant to the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938, as then amended, there were established for the appellee's 1941 crop a wheat acreage allotment of 11.1 acres and a normal yield of 20.1 bushels of wheat an acre. He was given notice of such allotment in July of 1940, before the Fall planting of his 1941 crop of wheat, and again in July of 1941, before it was harvested. He sowed, however, 23 acres, and harvested from his 11.9 acres of excess acreage 239 bushels, which, under the terms of the Act as amended on May 26, 1941, constituted farm

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marketing excess, subject to a penalty of 49 cents a bushel, or $117.11 in all. The appellee has not paid the penalty, and he has not postponed or avoided it by storing the excess under regulations of the Secretary of Agriculture, or by delivering it up to the Secretary. The Committee, therefore, refused him a marketing card, which was, under the terms of Regulations promulgated by the Secretary, necessary to protect a buyer from liability to the penalty and upon its protecting lien.4

The general scheme of the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938 as related to wheat is to control the volume moving in interstate and foreign commerce in order to avoid surpluses and shortages and the consequent abnormally low or high wheat prices and obstructions to commerce.5 Within prescribed limits and by prescribed standards, the Secretary of Agriculture is directed to ascertain and proclaim each year a national acreage allotment for the next crop of wheat, which is then apportioned to the states and their counties, and is eventually broken up into allotments for individual farms.6 Loans and payments to wheat farmers are authorized in stated circumstances.7

The Act further provides that, whenever it appears that the total supply of wheat as of the beginning of any marketing year, beginning July 1, will exceed a normal year's domestic consumption and export by more than 35 percent, the Secretary shall so proclaim not later than May 15 prior to the beginning of such marketing year, and that, during the marketing year, a compulsory national marketing quota shall be in effect with respect to the marketing

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of wheat.8 Between the issuance of the proclamation and June 10, the Secretary must, however, conduct a referendum of farmers who will be subject to the quota, to determine whether they favor or oppose it; and, if more than one-third of the farmers voting in the referendum do oppose, the Secretary must, prior to the effective date of the quota, by proclamation suspend its operation.9

[63 S.Ct. 85] On May 19, 1941, the Secretary of Agriculture made a radio address to the wheat farmers of the United States in which he advocated approval of the quotas and called attention to the pendency of the amendment of May 26, 1941, which had at the time been sent by Congress to the White House, and pointed out its provision for an increase in the loans on wheat to 85 percent of parity. He made no mention of the fact that it also increased the penalty from 15 cents a bushel to one-half of the parity loan rate of about 98 cents, but stated that,

Because of the uncertain world situation, we deliberately planted several million extra acres of wheat. . . . Farmers should not be penalized because they have provided insurance against shortages of food.

Pursuant to the Act, the referendum of wheat growers was held on May 31, 1941. According to the required published statement of the Secretary of Agriculture, 81 percent of those voting favored the marketing quota, with 19 percent opposed.

The court below held, with one judge dissenting, that the speech of the Secretary invalidated the referendum, and that the amendment of May 26, 1941,

insofar as it increased the penalty for the farm marketing excess over the fifteen cents per bushel prevailing at the time of planting and subjected the entire crop to a lien for the payment thereof,

should not be applied to the appellee because,

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as so applied, it was retroactive, and in violation of the Fifth Amendment, and, alternatively, because the equities of the case so required. 43 F.Supp. 1017. Its Judgment permanently enjoined appellants from collecting a marketing penalty of more than 15 cents a bushel on the farm marketing excess of appellee's 1941 wheat crop, from subjecting appellee's entire 1941 crop to a lien for the payment of the penalty, and from collecting a 15-cent penalty except in accordance with the provisions of § 339 of the Act as that section stood prior to the amendment of May 26, 1941.10 The Secretary and his codefendants have appealed.11



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