B. C. Cotton, Inc. v. Voss, C016667

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtSPARKS
Citation39 Cal.Rptr.2d 484,33 Cal.App.4th 929
PartiesB.C. COTTON, INC., et al., Plaintiffs, Appellants, and Respondents v. Henry J. VOSS, as Secretary of Food and Agriculture, et al., Defendants, Respondents and Appellants.
Docket NumberNo. C016667,C016667
Decision Date29 March 1995

Page 484

39 Cal.Rptr.2d 484
33 Cal.App.4th 929
B.C. COTTON, INC., et al., Plaintiffs, Appellants, and Respondents
Henry J. VOSS, as Secretary of Food and Agriculture, et al., Defendants, Respondents and Appellants.
No. C016667.
Court of Appeal, Third District, California.
March 29, 1995.

[33 Cal.App.4th 934]

Page 488

Brian C. Leighton, Clovis, for plaintiffs, appellants and respondents.

Daniel E. Lungren, Atty. Gen., Roderick E. Walston, Chief Asst. Atty. Gen., Walter E. Wunderlich, Sr. Asst. Atty. Gen., Richard Thalhammer, Supervising Deputy Atty. Gen., and Deborah L. Barnes, Deputy Atty. Gen., for defendants, respondents and appellants.

SPARKS, Acting Presiding Justice.

In this appeal and cross-appeal we consider challenges to the statutory and regulatory scheme establishing and governing the San Joaquin Valley Quality Cotton District (the district). (Food & Agr.Code, § 52851 et seq.) 1 The challenging plaintiffs are growers and breeders of cotton and the defendants are the director of the Department of Food and Agriculture, the San Joaquin Valley Cotton Board and the State of California. The trial court found that one portion of the statutory scheme, section 52856, was unconstitutionally vague but otherwise rejected plaintiffs' challenges to the law. We agree with the trial court that section 52856 cannot be applied as urged by the defendants, but reach that conclusion through [33 Cal.App.4th 935] principles of statutory interpretation and therefore reject the conclusion that the statute, as properly interpreted, is unconstitutional. We further conclude that the plaintiffs are not required to obtain permission from the defendants to engage in research activities with respect to nonapproved cotton varieties, but otherwise we reject all of plaintiffs' challenges to the statutory and regulatory scheme. We shall remand to the trial court for the issuance of judgment in conformance with the views expressed in this opinion.


Legal Background

Cotton is a seed-hair fiber produced by a variety of plants of the genus Gossypium. (3 The New Encyclopaedia Britannica (15th ed. 1989) pp. 670-671.) The fibers grow from the outer skin of seeds within a seedpod or cotton boll. The fibers become tightly packed and upon maturity the boll bursts open releasing soft masses of fibers. A cotton crop is harvested when the bolls open and the fibers, referred to as lint, are separated from the seeds in a mechanical process called ginning. (Ibid.) When a crop is grown for cottonseed, the seeds are subjected to a process known as delinting to remove short fibers. (§ 52866.)

Cotton, which the industry markets as "the fabric of our lives," has been defined by Congress as "the basic natural fiber of the Nation" (7 U.S.C. § 2101), and has been described by our Legislature as the "state's number one field crop" (§ 6001). It "is plentiful and economically produced, making cotton products relatively inexpensive. The fibres can be made into a wide variety of fabrics ranging from lightweight voiles and laces to heavy sailcloths and thickpiled velveteens, suitable for a great variety of wearing apparel, home furnishings, and industrial uses. Cotton fabrics can be extremely durable and resistant to abrasion. Cotton is usually washable and can be ironed at relatively high temperatures. It is comfortable to wear because it absorbs and releases moisture quickly. When warmth is desired, it can be napped, a process giving the fabric a downy surface. Various finishing processes have been developed to make cotton resistant to stains, water, and mildew; to increase resistance to wrinkling, thus reducing or eliminating the need for ironing; and to reduce shrinkage in laundering to not more than 1 percent. Nonwoven cotton, made by fusing or bonding the fibres together, is useful for making disposable products to be used as towels, polishing cloths, tea bags, tablecloths, bandages, and disposable uniforms and sheets for hospital and other medical uses." (3 The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, supra, p. 671.)

Page 489

For all its virtues, "[c]otton is not, however, a simple, fungible commodity." (10 Harl, Agricultural Law (Feb. 1991 Supp.) § 79.01.) In general, [33 Cal.App.4th 936] there are three broad groups into which cotton may be classified, based upon the average length of the fibers comprising a sample, referred to as the staple length. 2 (10 Harl, supra, § 79.01; 3 The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, supra, p. 671.) However, "[n]ot only are there different kinds of cotton, but each kind is subject to considerable variation that affects grade, quality, industrial usefulness, and market price." (10 Harl, supra, § 79.01, fn. omitted.)

Prior to governmental intervention, the numerous cotton variations created marketing problems. Although various markets and exchanges employed the same or similar terminology in describing cotton variations, the terms lacked definitional uniformity. This created uncertainty and instability in commercial trading from the futures markets through spot market sales by producers, who complained that their crops were being systematically underpriced as a hedge against uncertainty. (10 Harl, supra, §§ 79.01, 79.02.) Various private and administrative efforts to establish a uniform system of classification proved unsuccessful. (Ibid.) Ultimately Congress succeeded in establishing such a uniform system through enactment of the United States Cotton Futures Act of 1914, reenacted 1916, and, in 1923, of the United States Cotton Standards Act. (7 U.S.C. §§ 15b, 51 et seq.)

Regulation of the cotton industry in this state took a different course, although it is also of long-standing duration. In 1925 the Legislature enacted an uncodified act to provide for the growing of one variety or species of cotton, Acala, in certain defined districts. (Stats.1925, ch. 299, pp. 492-494.) In section 1 of the act the Legislature declared its purpose and the reasons necessitating the creation of one-cotton districts. 3 It then created 9 one-cotton districts, consisting of the counties of Riverside, Kern, Madera, [33 Cal.App.4th 937] Fresno, Kings, Tulare, Merced, Stanislaus,

Page 490

and San Joaquin, respectively. (Stats.1925, ch. 299, § 7, p. 493.) Within those districts it was made unlawful to plant, pick, harvest, gin, or possess for planting seeds or plants of any cotton other than Acala. (Stats.1925, ch. 299, §§ 3-6, p. 493.) The act was made inapplicable to the transportation, planting and growing of cotton seeds and cotton for experimental or technical purposes by the United States or the State of California, or to the transportation of cotton or cotton seeds through the districts. (Stats.1925, ch. 299, § 10, pp. 493-494.) In 1933, when the Legislature enacted the Agricultural Code, the predecessor to the Food and Agricultural Code, the substantive provisions of the 1925 act were included as sections 951 to 954. (Stats.1933, ch. 25, pp. 227-228.)

In 1961 the Legislature enacted urgency legislation with respect to one-cotton districts. (Stats.1961, ch. 18, pp. 576-578.) By this enactment it added to the Agricultural Code, as section 950, the statement of purpose and intent from the 1925 act which had not been codified with enactment of the Agricultural Code. 4 It amended section 951 of the Agricultural Code to provide that Acala cotton "consists of the seeds or plants derived from the common seed stocks under the one variety breeding program at the United States Cotton Field Station, Shafter, California." Nonconforming cotton, cotton plants and cotton seeds were declared to be a public nuisance subject to seizure and destruction through a civil action to be maintained by the district attorney of the county wherein the nuisance existed upon relation of [33 Cal.App.4th 938] the state director or the county commissioner. (Former Agr.Code, §§ 955-957, Stats.1961, ch. 18, §§ 3-5, p. 577.) The state director and local commissioners under the supervision of the director were given the duty of enforcing the law. (Former Agr.Code, § 958, Stats.1961, ch. 18, § 6, p. 577.)

In 1965 the Legislature amended section 954 of the Agricultural Code to provide: "This article does not apply to the planting, possessing for planting, growing, picking, harvesting or ginning of cotton by the United States Department of Agriculture or by the department, nor to the transportation of cottonseed through such districts from a point without the district to a destination without the district. The department may plant, grow, harvest, or gin cotton within such districts and designate other persons or agencies to do so for experimental purposes under the direct supervision of the department." (Stats.1965, ch. 884, § 1, pp. 2491-2492.)

In 1967, the Legislature repealed and then reenacted the Agricultural Code. (Stats.1967, ch. 15, p. 44 et seq.) The provisions with respect to one-variety cotton districts were rearranged and reenacted as sections 52851 to 52983. (Stats.1967, ch. 15, § 2, pp. 591-594.) The only substantive change was the deletion of Riverside County, as district No. 1, from the coverage of the law. (Former Agr.Code, § 52921, Stats.1967, ch. 15, § 2, p. 593.)

The statutory provisions were substantially revised in 1978. 5 (Stats.1978, ch. 592, pp. 2019-2030.) Among other things, the Legislature ceased designating each cotton-producing county as a separate district and created a single one-variety cotton district comprised of all counties in the San Joaquin Valley where cotton is produced. (Stats.1978, ch. 592, § 2, p. 2021.) It also created the Acala Cotton Board. (Stats.1978, ch. 592, § 2, p. 2021.) The 1978 legislation forms the basis for the statutory and administrative scheme that currently prevails, although it was further revised in 1990. (Stats.1990, ch. 730.) The primary purpose of the 1990 legislation was to add Pima cotton as a legislatively approved variety of cotton. (See § 52851.) As a result of this...

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