Growers and handlers unhappy with federal marketing orders may have another tool to fight them.

Reversing a lower court ruling, the Supreme Court on June 10 unanimously ruled that the federal court of appeals does have jurisdiction to decide if U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Raisin Marketing Order imposition of $650,000 in fines and civil penalties against San Joaquin Valley raisin growers and handlers violated their Fifth Amendment’s prohibition against taking property without just compensation.

In a June 10 opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas, the Supreme Court issued the ruling on Horne et al. v. Department of Agriculture and sent the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit for further review.

“The Ninth Circuit has jurisdiction to decide whether USDA’s imposition of fines and civil penalties on petitioners, in their capacity as handlers, violated the Fifth Amendment,” Thomas said in his opinion.

The court heard arguments on the case March 20, which were based on a legal challenge by Marvin and Laura Horne, owners of Raisin Valley Farms Marketing LLC, Fresno, against the federal raisin marketing order. That marketing order requires handlers who process and pack raisins to keep part of their product in reserve. Product in reserve cannot be sold on the open domestic market.

When the Horne’s company refused to surrender part of their crop to the reserve and refused to pay assessments to the Raisin Administrative Committee during the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons, the USDA began administrative proceedings against the firm.

The Hornes countered by filing a suit that claimed as producers, they were not subject to the raisin marketing order and that the order violated the Fifth Amendment’s prohibition against taking property without just compensation.