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decided: January 4, 1943.



Stone, Roberts, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas, Murphy, Byrnes, Jackson

Author: Stone

[ 317 U.S. Page 344]

 MR. CHIEF JUSTICE STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.

The questions for our consideration are whether the marketing program adopted for the 1940 raisin crop under the California Agricultural Prorate Act*fn1 is rendered invalid (1) by the Sherman Act, or (2) by the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937, as amended, 7 U. S. C. §§ 601, et seq., or (3) by the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

Appellee, a producer and packer of raisins in California, brought this suit in the district court to enjoin appellants -- the State Director of Agriculture, Raisin Proration Zone No. 1, the members of the State Agricultural Prorate Advisory Commission and of the Program Committee for Zone No. 1, and others charged by the statute with the administration of the Prorate Act -- from enforcing, as to appellee, a program for marketing the 1940 crop of raisins produced in "Raisin Proration Zone No. 1." After a trial upon oral testimony, a stipulation of facts and certain exhibits, the district court held that the 1940 raisin marketing program was an illegal interference with and undue burden upon interstate commerce and gave judgment for appellee granting the injunction prayed for. 39 F.Supp. 895. The case was tried by a district court of three judges

[ 317 U.S. Page 345]

     and comes here on appeal under §§ 266 and 238 of the Judicial Code as amended, 28 U. S. C. §§ 380, 345.

As appears from the evidence and from the findings of the district court, almost all the raisins consumed in the United States, and nearly one-half of the world crop, are produced in Raisin Proration Zone No. 1. Between 90 and 95 per cent of the raisins grown in California are ultimately shipped in interstate or foreign commerce.

The harvesting and marketing of the crop in California follows a uniform procedure. The grower of raisins picks the bunches of grapes and places them for drying on trays laid between the rows of vines. When the grapes have been sufficiently dried he places them in "sweat boxes" where their moisture content is equalized. At this point the curing process is complete. The growers sell the raisins and deliver them in the "sweat boxes" to handlers or packers whose plants are all located within the Zone. The packers process them at their plants and then ship them in interstate commerce. Those raisins which are to be marketed in clusters are sometimes merely packed, unstemmed, in suitable containers, but are more often cleaned, fumigated, and, when necessary, steamed to make the stems pliable. Most of the raisins are not sold in clusters; such raisins are stemmed before packing, and most packers also clean, grade and sort them. One variety is also seeded before packing.

The packers sell their raisins through agents, brokers, jobbers and other middlemen, principally located in other states or foreign countries. Until he is ready to ship the raisins the packer stores them in the form in which they have been received from producers. The length of time that the raisins remain at the packing plants before processing and shipping varies from a few days up to two years, depending upon the packer's current supply of raisins and the market demand. The packers frequently place orders with producers for fall delivery, before the

[ 317 U.S. Page 346]

     crop is harvested, and at the same time enter into contracts for the sale of raisins to their customers. In recent years most packers have had a substantial "carry over" of stored raisins at the end of each crop season, which are usually marketed before the raisins of the next year's crop are marketed.

The California Agricultural Prorate Act authorizes the establishment, through action of state officials, of programs for the marketing of agricultural commodities produced in the state, so as to restrict competition among the growers and maintain prices in the distribution of their commodities to packers. The declared purpose of the Act is to "conserve the agricultural wealth of the State" and to "prevent economic waste in the marketing of agricultural products" of the state. It authorizes (§ 3) the creation of an Agricultural Prorate Advisory Commission of nine members, of which a state official, the Director of Agriculture, is ex-officio a member. The other eight members are appointed for terms of four years by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate, and are required to take an oath of office. § 4.

Upon the petition of ten producers for the establishment of a prorate marketing plan for any commodity within a defined production zone (§ 8), and after a public hearing (§ 9), and after making prescribed economic findings (§ 10) showing that the institution of a program for the proposed zone will prevent agricultural waste and conserve agricultural wealth of the state without permitting unreasonable profits to producers, the Commission is authorized to grant the petition. The Director, with the approval of the Commission, is then required to select a program committee from among nominees chosen by the qualified producers within the zone, to which he may add not more than two handlers or packers who receive the regulated commodity from producers for marketing. §§ 11, 14, 15.

[ 317 U.S. Page 347]

     The program committee is required (§ 15) to formulate a proration marketing program for the commodity produced in the zone, which the Commission is authorized to approve after a public hearing and a "finding that the program is reasonably calculated to carry out the objectives of the Act." The Commission may, if so advised, modify the program and approve it as modified. If the proposed program, as approved by the Commission, is consented to by 65 per cent in number of producers in the zone owning 51 per cent of the acreage devoted to production of the regulated crop, the Director is required to declare the program instituted. § 16.

Authority to administer the program, subject to the approval of the Director of Agriculture, is conferred on the program committee. §§ 6, 18, 22. Section 22.5 declares that it shall be a misdemeanor, which is punishable by fine and imprisonment (Penal Code § 19), for any producer to sell or any handler to receive or possess without proper authority any commodity for which a proration program has been instituted. Like penalty is imposed upon any person who aids or abets in the commission of any of the acts specified in the section, and it is declared that each "infraction shall constitute a separate and distinct offense." Section 25 imposes a civil liability of $500 "for each and every violation" of any provision of a proration program.

The seasonal proration marketing program for raisins, with which we are now concerned, became effective on September 7, 1940. This provided that the program committee should classify raisins as "standard," "substandard," and "inferior"; "inferior" raisins are those which are unfit for human consumption, as defined in the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, 21 U. S. C. §§ 301 et seq. The committee is required to establish receiving stations within the zone to which every producer must deliver all raisins which he desires to market. The raisins are graded at these stations. All inferior raisins are to be placed in the

[ 317 U.S. Page 348]

     "inferior raisin pool," to be disposed of by the committee "only for assured by-product and other diversion purposes." All substandard raisins, and at least 20 per cent of the total standard and substandard raisins produced, must be placed in a "surplus pool." Raisins in this pool may also be disposed of only for "assured by-product and other diversion purposes," except that under certain circumstances the program committee may transfer standard raisins from the surplus pool to the stabilization pool. Fifty per cent of the crop must be placed in a "stabilization pool."

Under the program the producer is permitted to sell the remaining 30 per cent of his standard raisins, denominated "free tonnage," through ordinary commercial channels, subject to the requirement that he obtain a "secondary certificate" authorizing such marketing and pay a certificate fee of $2.50 for each ton covered by the certificate. Certification is stated to be a device for controlling "the time and volume of movement" of free tonnage into such ordinary commercial channels. Raisins in the stabilization pool are to be disposed of by the committee "in such manner as to obtain stability in the market and to dispose of such raisins," but no raisins (other than those subject to special lending or pooling arrangements of the Federal Government) can be sold by the committee at less than the prevailing market price for raisins of the same variety and grade on the date of sale. Under the program the committee is to make advances to producers of from $25 to $27.50 a ton, depending upon the variety of raisins, for deliveries into the surplus pool, and from $50 to $55 a ton for deliveries into the stabilization pool. The committee is authorized to pledge the raisins held in those pools in order to secure funds to finance pool operations and make advances to growers.

Appellee's bill of complaint challenges the validity of the proration program as in violation of the Commerce

[ 317 U.S. Page 349]

     Clause and the Sherman Act; in support of the decree of the district court he also urges that it conflicts with and is superseded by the Federal Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937. The complaint alleges that he is engaged within the marketing zone both in producing and in purchasing and packing raisins for sale and shipment interstate; that before the adoption of the program he had entered into contracts for the sale of 1940 crop raisins; that, unless enjoined, appellants will enforce the program against appellee by criminal prosecutions and will prevent him from marketing his 1940 crop, from fulfilling his sales contracts, and from purchasing for sale and selling in interstate commerce raisins of that crop.

Appellee's allegations of irreparable injury are in general terms, but it appears from the evidence that he had produced 200 tons of 1940 crop raisins; that he had contracted to sell 762 1/2 tons of the 1940 crop; that he had dealt in 2,000 tons of raisins of the 1939 crop, and expected to sell, if the challenged program were not in force, 3,000 tons of the 1940 crop at $60 a ton; that the pre-season price to growers of raisins of the 1940 crop, before the program became effective, was $45 per ton, and that immediately afterward it rose to $55 per ton or higher. It also appears that, the district court having awarded the final injunction prayed, appellee has proceeded with the marketing of his 1940 crop and has disposed of all except twelve tons, which remain on hand. Although the district court found that the amount in controversy exceeds $3,000, we are of opinion that as the complaint assails the validity of the program under the anti-trust laws, 15 U. S. C. §§ 1-33, the suit is one "arising under" a "law regulating commerce"; and allegation and proof of the jurisdictional amount are not required. 28 U. S. C. §§ 41 (1), (8); Peyton v. Railway Express Agency, 316 U.S. 350. The majority of the Court is also of opinion that the suit is within the equity jurisdiction of the court, since the complaint

[ 317 U.S. Page 350]

     alleges, and the evidence shows, threatened irreparable injury to respondent's business and threatened prosecutions by reason of his having marketed his crop ...

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