Under a World War II era program, raisins can be forcibly set aside under the Raisin Marketing Order to help support prices. Other crops have had similar set asides over the years, but nothing has survived like the raisin reserve.
In the past, "We got paid for our raisins," said fourth-generation California farmer Laura Horne of the program. That changed a little over a decade ago. Now the USDA can take the grapes without paying a dime.
"It's communist," said her husband, Marvin Horne. "When you take something and don't pay for it, what is it?"
In 2002, the Hornes decided they'd had enough. They stopped handing over any of their grapes to the government and began processing and selling 100 percent of their own product. Other raisin growers joined them.
At first, nothing happened. There was no notice of violation from the USDA agency in charge of the raisin reserve, the Raisin Administrative Committee (RAC). Horne figured raisin authorities believed he wouldn't survive on his own. When he instead thrived, and other farmers joined him, Horne claims the RAC began an investigation full of "dirty tricks," which included photographing his children and grandchildren.
"It made the kids afraid, they didn't even want to go out in front of our facility to catch the bus," said Laura Horne.
Eventually, the government fined the Hornes $650,000 for grapes they didn't turn over, and the case went to court. Horne argued the raisin program violates the Constitution's ban on taking property without compensation. He lost that argument repeatedly, but he appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.