Florida Lime and Avocado Growers, Inc v. Paul Paul v. Florida Lime and Avocado Growers, Inc, Nos. 45

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBRENNAN
Citation373 U.S. 132,83 S.Ct. 1210,10 L.Ed.2d 248
PartiesFLORIDA LIME AND AVOCADO GROWERS, INC., et al., Appellants, v. Charles PAUL, Director of the Department of Agriculture of California, et al. Charles PAUL, Director of the Department of Agriculture of California, et al., Appellants, v. FLORIDA LIME AND AVOCADO GROWERS, INC., et al
Decision Date13 May 1963
Docket NumberNos. 45,49

373 U.S. 132
83 S.Ct. 1210
10 L.Ed.2d 248
FLORIDA LIME AND AVOCADO GROWERS, INC., et al., Appellants,

v.

Charles PAUL, Director of the Department of Agriculture of California, et al. Charles PAUL, Director of the Department of Agriculture of California, et al., Appellants, v. FLORIDA LIME AND AVOCADO GROWERS, INC., et al.

Nos. 45, 49.
Argued Jan. 8, 1963.
Decided May 13, 1963.
As Amended May 27, 1963.
Rehearing Denied June 17, 1963.

See 374 U.S. 858, 83 S.Ct. 1861.

[Syllabus from pages 132-133 intentionally omitted]

Page 133

Isaac E. Ferguson, Van Nuys, Cal., for appellants in No. 45 and for appellees in No. 49.

John Fourt, Sacramento, Cal., for appellees in No. 45 and for appellants in No. 49.

Mr. Justice BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

Section 792 of California's Agricultural Code, which gauges the maturity of avocados by oil content, prohibits the transportation or sale in California of avocados which contain 'less than 8 per cent of oil, by weight * * *

Page 134

excluding the skin and seed.'1 In contrast, federal marketing orders approved by the Secretary of Agriculture gauge the maturity of avocados grown in Florida by standards which attribute no significance to oil content.2 This case presents the question of the constitutionality of the California statute insofar as it may be applied to exclude from California markets certain Florida avocados which, although certified to be mature under the federal regulations, do not uniformly meet the California requirement of 8% of oil.

Appellants in No. 45, growers and handlers of avocados in Florida, brought this action in the District Court for the Northern District of California to enjoin the enforcement of § 792 against Florida avocados certified as mature under the federal regulations. Appellants challenged the constitutionality of the statute on three grounds: (1) that under the Supremacy Clause, Art. VI, the California standard must be deemed displaced by the federal standard for determining the maturity of avocados grown in Florida; (2) that the application of the California statute to Florida-grown avocados denied appellants the Equal

Page 135

Protection of the Laws in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment; (3) that its application unreasonably burdened or discriminated against interstate marketing of Florida-grown avocados in violation of the Commerce Clause, Art. I, § 8. A three-judge District Court initially dismissed the complaint. D.C., 169 F.Supp. 774. On direct appeal we held, Florida Lime & Avocado Growers, Inc., v. Jacobsen, 362 U.S. 73, 80 S.Ct. 568, 4 L.Ed.2d 568, that the suit was one for a three-judge court under 28 U.S.C. § 2281, and presented a justiciable controversy to be tried on the merits. After a trial the three-judge court denied an injunction against the enforcement of § 792, on the ground that the proofs did not establish that its application to Florida-grown avocados violated any provision of the Federal Constitution. 197 F.Supp. 780. The District Court held for several reasons that the Supremacy Clause did not operate to displace § 792; no actual conflict existed between the statute and the federal marketing orders; neither the Agricultural Act nor the marketing orders occupied the field to the exclusion of the state statute; and Congress had not ordained that a federal marketing order was to give a license to Florida producers to 'market their avocados without further inspection by the states' after compliance with the federal maturity test. 197 F.Supp., at 787. Rather, the court observed, '(t)he Federal law does not cover the whole field of interstate shipment of avocados' but by necessary implication leaves the regulation of certain aspects of distribution to the States. Further, the District Court found no violation of the Equal Protection Clause because the California statute was applicable on identical terms to Florida and California producers, and was reasonably designed to enforce a traditional and legitimate interest of the State of California in the protection of California consumers. The District Court concluded, finally, that § 792 did not unreasonably burden or discriminate against interstate commerce in out-of-state

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avocados-that the 8% oil content test served in practice only to keep off California grocers' shelves fruit which was unpalatable because prematurely picked. This holding rested in part on the conclusion that mature Florida fruit had not been shown to be incapable of attaining 8% oil content, since only a very small fraction of Florida avocados of certain varieties in fact failed to meet the California test.3

Both parties have brought appeals here from the District Court's judgment: the Florida growers urge in No. 45 that the court erred in not enjoining enforcement of the state statute against Florida-grown avocados; in No. 49 the California state officials appeal on the ground that the action should have been dismissed for want of equity jurisdiction rather than upon the merits. We noted probable jurisdiction of both appeals. 368 U.S. 964, 965, 82 S.Ct. 439, 437, 7 L.Ed.2d 394. We affirm the judgment in the respect challenged by the cross-appeal in No. 49. In No. 45 we agree that appellants have not sustained their challenges to § 792 under the Supremacy and Equal Protection Clauses. However, we reverse and remand for a new trial insofar as the judgment sus-

Page 137

tains § 792 against appellants' challenge to the statute grounded on the Commerce Clause. We hold that the effect of the statute upon interstate commerce cannot be determined on the record now before us.

The California statute was enacted in 1925. Like the federal marketing regulations applicable to appellants, this statute sought to ensure the maturity of avocados reaching retail markets.4 The District Court found on sufficient evidence that before 1925 the marketing of immature avocados had created serious problems in California.5 An avocado, if picked prematurely, will not ripen properly, but will tend to decay or shrivel and become rubbery and unpalatable after purchase. Not only retail consumers but even experienced grocers have difficulty in distinguishing mature avocados from the immature by physical characteristics alone.6 Thus, the District Court

Page 138

concluded, '(t)he marketing of * * * (immature) avocados cheats the consumer' and adversely affects demand for and orderly distribution of the fruit. 197 F.Supp., at 783.

The federal marketing regulations were adopted pursuant to the Agricultural Adjustment Act, 7 U.S.C. §§ 601 et seq. The declared purposes of the Act are to restore and maintain parity prices for the benefit of producers of agricultural commodities, to ensure the stable and steady flow of commodities to consumers, and 'to establish and maintain such minimum standards of quality and maturity * * * as well effectuate such orderly marketing of such agricultural commodities as will be in the public interest.' § 2(3), 7 U.S.C. § 602(3). Whenever he finds that it would promote these declared policies, the Secretary is empowered upon notice and hearing to adopt federal marketing orders and regulations for a particular growing area, § 8c(3), (4), 7 U.S.C. § 608c(3), (4). Orders thus proposed by the Secretary become effective only when approved by a majority of the growers or producers concerned, § 8c(8), (9), 7 U.S.C. § 608c(8), (9).

In 1954, after proceedings in compliance with the statute, 19 Fed.Reg. 3439, the Secretary promulgated orders governing the marketing of avocados grown in South Florida.7 The orders established an Avocado Administrative Committee, composed entirely of South Florida avocado growers and handlers. 7 CFR § 969.20. This Committee has authority to draft and recommend to the Secretary various marketing regulations governing the

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quality and maturity of South Florida avocados. The maturity test for the South Florida fruit is based upon a schedule of picking dates, sizes and weights annually drafted and recommended by the Committee and promulgated by the Secretary.8 The regulations forbid picking and shipping of any fruit before the prescribed date, although an exemption from the picking-date schedule may be granted by the Committee.9 The regulations drafted by the Committee and promulgated by the Secretary concern other qualities and physical characteristics of Florida avocados besides maturity. See 22 Fed.Reg. 6205, 7 CFR §§ 51.3050-51.3053, 51.3064. All regulated avocados, including those shipped under picking-date exemptions, must be inspected for compliance with certain quality standards by the Federal-State Inspection Service, a joint authority supervised by the United States and Florida Departments of Agriculture.

Page 140

Almost all avocados commercially grown in the United States come either from Southern California or South Florida. The California-grown varieties are chiefly of Mexican ancestry, and in most years contain at least 8% oil content when mature.10 The several Florida species, by contrast, are of West Indian and Guatemalan ancestry. West Indian avocados, which constitute some 12% of the total Florida production, may contain somewhat less than 8% oil when mature and ready for market. They do not, the District Court found, attain that percentage of oil 'until they are past their prime.' 197 F.Supp., at 783. But that variety need not concern us in this case since the District Court concluded on sufficient evidence that 'poor shipping qualities and short retail store shelf-life' make it commercially unprofitable, regardless of the oil test, to market the variety in California. On the other hand, the Florida hybrid and Guatemalan varieties, which do not encounter such handicaps, may reach maturity before they attain 8% oil content. The District Court concluded, nevertheless, that § 792 did not unreasonably interfere with their marketability since these species 'attain or exceed 8% oil content...

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