Raisin Cain

Often the federal government is just as crazy as California’s – especially the stuff that happens when a Progressive president is in power. Here’s a case in point.

Back in 1937, during FDR’s Progressive presidency, government manipulation of everything was robust, to put it mildly. One of the experiments of the day was to create the National Raisin Reserve, out of a belief that government planning led to healthier markets than the free market could ever hope to achieve. The Reserve’s “business” was to tax, or confiscate, a percentage of each raisin farmer’s crop every year and keep those raisins off the U.S. market in order to ensure that stupid, greedy farmers wouldn’t flood the market, thereby voluntarily lowering their income.

(As a not-to-curious aside, the Washington Post, which very curiously broke this story, attributed the National Raisin Reserve to Pres. Truman, but in 1937, FDR was president.)

Marvin HorneEnter Fresno raisin farmer Marvin Horne, the frightened looking fellow there on the right.  Until 2002, Horne dutifully put up with this authoritarian silliness, then stopped rendering his raisins unto Caesar as a protest. Here’s how the Washington Post put it:

In the world of dried fruit, America has no greater outlaw than Marvin Horne, 68.

Horne, a raisin farmer, has been breaking the law for 11 solid years. He now owes the U.S. government at least $650,000 in unpaid fines. And 1.2 million pounds of unpaid raisins, roughly equal to his entire harvest for four years.

His crime? Horne defied one of the strangest arms of the federal bureaucracy — a farm program created to solve a problem during the Truman administration, and never turned off.

He said no to the national raisin reserve.

“I believe in America. And I believe in our Constitution. And I believe that eventually we will be proved right,” Horne said recently, sitting in an office next to 20 acres of ripening Thompson grapes. “They took our raisins and didn’t pay us for them.”

The U.S. Supreme Court recently sided partially with Horne, sending his case back down the ladder for reconsideration. If he wins, it’s a great victory for America. If he loses,

“If we lose, we’re bankrupt. We won’t have a pot to piss in,” Horne said. He thinks he would be liable for about $3 million, including fines and the cash value of those raisins. “No. I don’t want to even think about it. Would you?”

I agree. If Horne loses, I don’t even want to think about it. It would just be one more piece of evidence that America, like California, is still going full-bore towards oblivion.

(I’ve simplified the story somewhat, leaving out details about how the National Raisin Reserve has morphed over the years. Read the Post story if you want the whole picture – but that’s really just footnote stuff, and doesn’t change the basic story one iota.)

Thanks to Crazifornia fan and long-time friend Lou Franson for the tip!

That Filthy Privately-Hauled Trash!

Fresno trashIf you track California regulation like we do, you’ve heard of CEQA reform – that’s the California Environmental Quality Act, and it’s regularly used by NIMBY and environmental groups to slow down projects that have fully complied with the law.

These groups can make even the most ridiculous arguments, allege a CEQA violation, and the whole matter gets tossed into the over-crowded California courts, pretty much guaranteeing a delay of a year or more in the start of the project. Even though most of the cases ultimately are thrown out, legal fees, delays and (sometimes) settlements that impact the project all drive up costs for the project proponent. That makes California more expensive and less business friendly.

Here’s a case in point: FRESCA, a days-old Fresno group, just sued the city, claiming a full-blown Environmental Impact Report should be prepared for the transfer of trash pick-up services from the city to a private company. The city wants to do this because the trash franchise fees will help to close an abyss-deep budget gap. I’m guessing FRESCA is a front group for city unions, so we know what they want.

Fine. Try to protect cushy union jobs. But how does privatizing trash collection impact the environment? Is privately hauled trash dirtier than publicly hauled trash?

Of course not! The lawsuit is ridiculous on its face, but that doesn’t stop FRESCA from delaying fiscal relief for a city much in need of fiscal relief – all so union employees can pad their retirement pensions a bit more before being tossed into the real world.

And that, my friends, is why CEQA reform is necessary.