Wickard v. Filburn (1942)
317 U.S. 111; 63 S.Ct. 82; 87 L.Ed. 122 (1942)
The facts of the case are these: “Roscoe C. Filburn for many years past has owned and operated a small farm in Montgomery County, Ohio, maintaining a heard 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 Filburn’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… constituted farm marketing excess, subject to a penalty of 49 cents a bushel or $117.11 in all. Filburn has not paid the penalty and he has not postponed or avoided it by storing the excess under regulations of the Secretary of Agriculture….” The case was granted certiorari by the Supreme Court of the United States.
The issues in this case are these: 1. Is the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938 constitutional under the Commerce Clause?
The holding in the case found that: 1. Yes, the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938 is constitutional under the Commerce Clause.
The unanimous opinion given in this case written by Mr. Justice Jackson, stated in part: “…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… The Act provides further that whenever it appears that the total supply of wheat as of the beginning of any marketing year… will exceed a normal year’s domestic consumption and export… a compulsory national marketing quota shall be in effect with respect to the marketing of wheat…. The Secretary must… 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 operation…. It is urged that under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, Article I, Sec. 8, clause 3, Congress does not possess the power it has in this instance sought to exercise. The question would merit little consideration since our decision in United States v. Darby (1941)… sustaining the federal power to regulate production of goods for commerce except for the fact that this Act extends federal regulation to production not intended in any part for commerce but wholly for consumption on the farm… Filburn says that this is a regulation of production and consumption of wheat. Such activities are, he urges, beyond the reach of congressional power under the Commerce Clause, since they are local in character, and their effects upon interstate commerce are at most ‘indirect.’ In answer the Government argues that the statute regulates neither production nor consumption, but only marketing: and, in the alternative, that if the Act does go beyond the regulation of marketing it is sustainable as a ‘necessary and proper’ implementation of the power of Congress over interstate commerce… At the beginning Chief Justice Marshall described the federal commerce power with a breadth never yet exceeded…. He made emphatic the embracing and penetrating nature of this power by warning that effective restraints on its exercise must proceed from political rather than from judicial processes…. For nearly a century, however, decisions of this Court under the Commerce Clause dealt rarely with questions of what Congress might do in the exercise of its granted power under the Clause and almost entirely with permissibility of state activity which it was claimed discriminated against or burdened interstate commerce… It was not until 1887 with the enactment of the Interstate Commerce Act that the interstate commerce power began to exert positive influence in American law and life. This first important federal resort to the commerce power was followed in 1890 by the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and thereafter, mainly after 1903, by many others… Even while important opinions in this line of restrictive authority were being written, however, other cases called forth broader interpretations of the Commerce Clause destined to supersede the earlier ones,--and to bring about a to the principles first enunciated by Chief Justice Marshall in Gibbons v. Ogden (1824)…. In the absence of regulation of home-grown wheat in the United States would be much affected by world conditions…. The effect of consumption of home-grown wheat on interstate commerce is due to the fact that it constitutes the most variable factor in the disappearance of the wheat crop… It is well established by decisions of this Court that the power to regulate commerce includes the power to regulate prices at which commodities in that commerce are dealt in and practices affecting such prices… Such conflicts rarely lend themselves to judicial determination. And with the wisdom, workability, or fairness, of the plan of regulation we have nothing to do….
The significance of this case, like the cases before it, led to establish the right of Congress to regulate the everyday lives of the American People. At this point in time, the Government regulated what Americans could do with their own property. Today, with ‘Obamacare’ the Government is attempting to regulate what Americans must do. Under this case, known as the ‘Wheat Case’ the Government told the farmer, what he had to plant on his property, and penalizes them if they do something different. Under ‘Obamacare’ the Government is requiring individual citizens to have health insurance or face a penalty. The Court’s rationale, then and now has remained the same, the Congress has the right to regulate commerce, the government has the right to tax, the government has the right to regulate your daily life, if your life effects interstate commerce…
Work’s Cited: American Constitutional Law: Sources of power and restraint, Volume I, Fourth Edition, Pg. 139-142, Chapter 2: Congress and the Development of National Power. Otis H. Stephens, Jr. and John M. Scheb II.
Legal Brief by: David A.W. Hittle
July 8, 2013