Usda

Lawsuit Against USDA Says Authoritarian Cherry Board Is the Pits

A lawsuit shines a light on a USDA-created board that controls supply, says you can't sell tart cherries without board permission.

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Cherries
Wikimedia Commons

What if the federal government had a stranglehold on the supply of tart cherries in America? Would you be confused? Outraged?

I cannot tell a lie. Such a stranglehold exists. And I'm a little bit of both.

My questions stem from an ongoing lawsuit, details of which emerged this week, that pits a Michigan cherry canner against the USDA in a battle over an appallingly stupid USDA creation known as the Cherry Industry Administrative Board (CIAB).

While the administrative lawsuit has been winding its way through the USDA since it was filed in 2011, the story came to light this week thanks to an annual Michigan cherry festival and a good piece of investigative writing on the topic by a Michigan journalist.

More on that in a minute. But first, a bit of background. Tart cherries are (you guessed it) tart, rather than sweet. They're not the fresh ones you buy at the grocery or farmers market. In fact, tart cherries are rarely canned or sold fresh. Nearly all (99%) tart cherries are sold frozen or used to make cherry wine (uh-huh) and other products.

While pretty much anyone can grow tart cherries, no one markets a tart cherry in this country without CIAB permission.

"[T]he tart cherry industry is told by the U.S. government how much of their product they can put on the market," writes journalist Ron French, in the aforementioned great expose on the tart cherry industry for Michigan's Bridge magazine earlier this week. The CIAB, French notes, controls the tart cherry market by mandating "the percentage of the tart cherry crop that can be sold."

The CIAB has the force of federal law behind it.

"The CIAB is authorized under Federal law, and it is considered an 'instrumentality' of the United States Department of Agriculture," declares the board's website. "Therefore, it is the Secretary of Agriculture who oversees the operations of the CIAB and under whose aegis the order operates."

The board's role, it notes, is to make sure "the annual supply of tart cherries [matches] the demand for tart cherries."

That's a job that used to be left to farmers and the folks who buy their produce. Now it's a board decision.

But the CIAB is just one scheme for marketing cherries. In addition to the USDA's marketing order program and a Cherry Grower's Association, cherry marketing and prices are impacted by the Cherry Marketing Institute and by CherrCo, a cooperative marketing organization that operates independent of the USDA program.

According to the USDA, the regulated tart cherry industry consists of about 600 tart cherry growers and 40 tart cherry handlers. Meanwhile, about three-quarters of America's tart cherry output comes from Michigan.

Burnette Foods, which sued the USDA over the CIAB, is a third-generation family business in Michigan with long history of selling cherries—beginning in the 1950s.

Burnette is a member of the 1 percent that doesn't market, say, frozen cherries.

Growers and companies that can't market cherries in any given year can simply save them for next year. Not Burnette. It's a processor of canned tart cherries, which "need to reach the consumer promptly."

Hence, when the CIAB tells Burnette it can't sell a percentage of its tart cherry crop, Burnette loses money.

For what purpose? The CIAB was established, at least in part, to try to stem falling consumer demand for tart cherries.

But demand has since fallen "dramatically."

And while the CIAB appears to have been unable to solve the demand problem, its existence has led to new issues.

"The restrictions have led to large amounts of cherries being imported into the U.S. from other countries," reported another Michigan-based journalist, Brendan Kinney, this week.

If this mess sounds vaguely familiar, it should. A lawsuit challenging a similarly inane USDA creation, the Raisin Administrative Board, which I wrote about here, made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court last year.

Justice Elena Kagan famously referred to the raisin board and its rules as "the world's most outdated law."

Still, that fact wasn't enough for the plaintiffs in the raisin case to win in court. They lost after their case was remanded to an appeals court.

That's an outrage. But there's clearly a groundswell of welcome, increasingly public opposition to stupid USDA controls on growers, handlers, processors, and other agricultural marketers. These laws are the pits. Thanks to lawsuits like the one filed by Burnette, it won't be long before courts will be forced to agree.

NEXT: How to Woo Millennials and Win the Future! #ReasonDay @ #FreedomFest

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  1. If the People so choose to gift favored industries with cartel status, and gift the participants with economic rents, that is their choice, and loyal Progressives must stand behind it, and fight to maintain those democratically assigned rents.

    (Part of a rant that has been brewing with the progressive Uber/Lyft/Parking-hate, but applies to agricultural central planning, too. Kind of thinking of turning it into an article for Salon)

    1. This sort of thinking is somewhat bizarre. Why should progressives fight to make sure that “the people” don’t change their mind about gifting favored industries with rents?

    2. I just wish that more people were aware that the agricultural reforms FDR put in place were not quite the same sorts of agricultural reforms that Stalin and Mao put in place. The entirely foreseeable unintended consequences of the agricultural reforms put in place by Stalin and Mao were the intended consequences of FDR’s reforms.

      Despite the poverty and hunger that existed during the Great Depression, FDR adopted a policy of deliberately restricting the production of food so as to raise the income of farmers – with the belief that this prosperity would ‘trickle down’ to the rest of society. Livestock were slaughtered, milk was dumped, fields were left unplanted deliberately to restrict the amount of food hungry people had access to. How’s that for ‘progressive values’?

      1. “How’s that for ‘progressive values’?”

        Par for the course.

      2. That’s what’s know to economists (not the Krugman-style poseurs, but real economists), as the “brain-dead wealth wasting shithead” approach to price controls.

        -jcr

  2. My questions stem from an ongoing lawsuit, details of which emerged this week, that pits a Michigan cherry canner against the USDA in a battle over an appallingly stupid USDA creation…

    Stem? Pits? Why don’t you just say it makes you red with anger while you’re at it, Baylen? If that is your real name.

    I’ve always wondered, from where in the Constitution does the authority to limit how much of a product can be sold come? I’m sure it’s probably somewhere in the back.

    1. Commerce clause, general welfare.. basically any word in there is transformed to mean whatever the progs want it to mean to advance their agenda.

      1. Unfortunately this was the kind of economic control Hamilton also wanted

        1. If only he and Burr had met earlier.

        2. A citation, if you please.

          Hamilton gets a bad rap, I think, by too many libertarians. He did a lot to establish the economic viability of the young republic and its capital building enterprises.

          1. Yes, you can thank him for your $17 TRILLION debt.

          2. Hamilton gets a bad rap, I think, by too many libertarians. He did a lot to establish the economic viability of the young republic and its capital building enterprises.

            What established the economic viability of the young republic were the literal mountains of natural resources and burgeoning industrial sector (which existed prior to the Bank of the United States). America became a popular place for Europeans to invest even prior to the BotUS once it became clear that the US was going to win. When the Treaty of Paris (1783) was signed the floodgates of European capital investment opened. It opened even wider when the Constitution was ratified stabilizing inter-state trade and currency issues (namely states doing what the Fed does now, printing money wildly). The French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars made Europeans throw even more money our way.

            Hamilton established public indebtedness as a social good. That he came up with this idea considering the effects that indebtedness of the Crown had on the economy of Britain and most acutely, its relationship to the American colonies tells me he was either an idiot or wildly sociopathic.

    2. Commerce Clause.

  3. It’s always interesting to see the various industries that you wouldn’t think were planned. Like the Christmas tree tax a couple of years ago.

    Glancing through the CAIB report Bayan links to, it’s amazingly naive. Industry produced x under a board, then less than x per year without the board, then a little more than that with a new board. Therefore, planning board is necessary and making it better.

    No variables, no controls for rather, demand, nothing. Just with planning, without, compare. Of course it gets the results the board wants.

    1. New checkoff (USDA mandated contributions to industry trade groups) programs in the last 15 years:

      Peanuts (1999)
      Blueberries (2000)
      Lamb (2002)
      Hass Avocado (2002)
      Mango (2004)
      Honey (2008)
      Sorghum (2008)
      Christmas Trees (2011)
      Softwood Lumber (2011)
      Rasberries (2012)
      Paper & Paper Packaging (2014)

      Then there’s the marketing orders…

      Just abolish the USDA and especially their Agricultural Marketing Service.

        1. For a magazine called Raisin…

        2. The National Raisin Reserve is a raisin reserve of the United States.

          Indeed, it’s their raisin d’?tre.

          1. Did you hear that through the grapevine?

          2. Your raisin’ my hackles.

  4. Thanks to lawsuits like the one filed by Burnette, it won’t be long before courts will be forced to agree.

    How cute. Optimism.

    I think I’m going to take the last of my tart cherries down to the local farmers market, sell them, and give the CIAB the finger.

  5. The board’s role, it notes, is to make sure “the annual supply of tart cherries [matches] the demand for tart cherries.”

    Well, that’s nice. But the role of this board is much too narrowly-scoped.

    “The board’s role, it notes, is to make sure ‘the annual supply of money [matches] the demand for money.'”

    “The board’s role, it notes, is to make sure ‘the annual supply of illegal immigrants [matches] the demand for illegal immigrants.'”

    “The board’s role, it notes, is to make sure ‘the annual supply of government entitlements [matches] the demand for government entitlements.'”

    “The board’s role, it notes, is to make sure ‘the annual supply of annual supplies [matches] the demand for annual supplies.'”

  6. Last week, I discovered canned tart cherries at Wal-Mart. In water, not syrup. I was shocked. I’m not sure I’d ever seen tart cherries in any grocery store before that weren’t in syrup or pie-filling.

    (To be fair, I don’t look through the canned fruit all that often, so it’s possible I’ve just missed them lots of times.)

    I’ve never liked sweet cherries very much. Tart cherries, or at least the varieties that people around here occasionally grow in their backyards, are what cherries are supposed to taste like. I always wondered why they never seemed to be commercially available.

    Now I know who I can probably blame for that.

    (I still haven’t opened the can I bought. I’m kind of scared they won’t be anywhere near as good as the ones you get right off the trees.)

    1. Tart cherry pie and black coffee were about the best things in the Army mess halls in the 1960s.

      Canned tart cherries in water are just fine. That was what Cookie always used.

      Around here, they are on the shelves only a few times a year and the prices do run from about $1.50 a can to about $3.

  7. She’s my cherry marketing commission
    you can’t sell cherries without her permission
    looks so good, carrying out her mission
    sweet cherry commission!

    1. + pie

    2. Do you have any outstanding Warrants?

      1. No. Just ordinary ones.

    1. Both groups are teaching the carb-loading that’s getting kids fatter.

  8. Tommy Ramone, last of the Ramones, dies

    http://www.nbc4i.com/story/260…..mones-dies

    1. Now I wanna sniff some glue ….

      RIP

    2. 🙁

  9. ” a lawsuit could liberate cherry producers from CIAB control”

    They’ll still get to keep their six figure cronie faux jobs though won’t they?

  10. “Smoking was discouraged in the workplace, and banned in cinemas, and in schools. Policemen and servicemen could not smoke in uniform, and it was not permitted to sell women cigarettes in cafes and other public places. Advertising tobacco products was restricted….

    “According to Proctor, the campaign also involved “psychological counseling, nicotine gums, methods to make cigarettes distasteful using silver nitrate mouthwash, and injections [of a chemical] that bonded with compounds in tobacco to produce a disagreeable sensation.””

    http://www.theatlantic.com/hea…..gn/373766/

    1. lol It wasn’t forgotten, it was scrubbed from public memory as anti-smoking became politically correct.

    2. Unfortunately, the campaign was only concerned with protecting the health of Aryan Germans.

      Wow, such bullshit. Much talking out of the arse.

      1. Well, they *did* allow camp inmates to smoke…

      2. Unfortunately, the campaign was only concerned with protecting the health of Aryan Germans.

        The real issue with this assault on freedom is that it didn’t extend further!

        /progtard

      3. . . .according to Proctor, the Nazi ban did manage to do some good . . . 20,000 German women avoided lung cancer deaths, thanks to “Nazi paternalism, which discouraged women from smoking, often with police force.”

        See, all worth it in the end.

        1. So burning people ok. Tobacco not so much.

    3. “My intention is not to argue that today’s anti-tobacco efforts have fascist roots, or that public health measures are in principle totalitarian.” However, he does conclude that “the Nazi campaign against tobacco was as fascist as the yellow stars and the death camps.”

      Is this, like, the *biggest* ad hominem you’ve ever read? When the NAZI’s do it its bad, ’cause they killed jews or something. When *we* do it, its completely different. Because we don’t kill jews.

      Why is it that, with the Nazis, the taint of their atrocities befouls *everything* they do, but the atrocities of the Soviets and the Red Chinese (not to mention North Korea, Cambodia, and Cuba) get to have their policies evaluated separately from the mass murders *they* did?

      1. Because Jews, I’m guessing?

        1. Because the National Socialist German Workers’ Party was right-wing.

          1. Yup, they were about as right wing as Somalia is libertarian.

            1. “Woman’s world is her husband, her family, her children and her home. We do not find it right when she presses into the world of men.”

              “‘Humanitarianism is the expression of stupidity and cowardice.”

              “I do not see why man should not be just as cruel as nature.”

              ” We want to burn out all the recent immoral developments in literature, in the theater, and in the press – in short, we want to burn out the poison of immorality which has entered into our whole life and culture as a result of liberal excess during the past … (few) years. “

              1. Stalin was a conservative:

                http://uspolitics.tribe.net/th…..7839aa8e8f

                1. however low wages, lack of worker rights, and the use of political prisoners to perform unpaid labor leans conservative, especially the first two.

                  How does someone get to this point?

                2. Stalin did have many stances that would fit with conservatives nicely-banning abortion, pornography and homosexual acts. But of course he had many running the opposite way.

                  For a consummate Leftist monster, Mao’s your man.

                  1. Fidel Castro: Oops, sorry I presided over the persecution of gays, I was just so distracted by the fight against imperialism.

                    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-…..a-11147157

              2. Why are you quoting Joe Liebermann?

          2. Actually, because the National Socialists went to war with the Commies, and the people who have been writing the histories have been sympathetic to the Commies. So the National Socialists are extra super bad, and we don’t want to detract from that by recognizing that they were also fighting some super bad Commies.

            IOW, Team uber alles.

          3. Because the National Socialist German Workers’ Party was right-wing.

            BOOOOOOOOOSH!

    4. The Camel in the photo is filtered.

  11. So, let me see if I’ve got this straight.

    In order to ensure that the supply of cherries meets the demand of cherries, the CIAB basically requires anyone who wants to buy cherries to register with them so they know how much to allow the producers to produce?

    Let me guess, no-one is willing to go through the hassle of registering their demand and the CIAB can’t figure out, for the life of them, why cherry demand never increases?

    This is just another example of the calculation problem that keeps us from true stateless socialism.

    1. Because they can’t allow any tart cherry growers to like, go out of business or anything….

      Markets, how do they work?

      1. They *don’t*, duh. That’s why agencies like the CIAB are essential.

  12. “Are we prepared to be overwhelmed?”

    “Mexican-born comedian Paul Rodriguez stunned the CNN panel on illegal immigration when he advocated for DEPORTING illegal aliens who have flooded the border in recent months.”

    http://toprightnews.com/?p=4422

    1. The sickening thing about that is the emotional claptrap that attaches to this issue.

      Immigration policy is just that, policy. I’m so sick of this attempt to moralize something that is fundamentally immoral: government policy that will be executed using force, using money which was obtained by force.

    2. Nothing surprising about that. There is no group more supportive of closing the southern border than those who’ve safely made it north.

      I’ve got friends who are like ‘damn wetbacks coming over and takin’ ‘er jerbs!’ and I’m like ‘dude, your *uncle* is an illegal’, ‘yeah, but that’s different’.

      Mexican Americans *love* joining the Border Patrol – government job, paying bennies and they’re in demand because they speak fluent Spanish.

      1. And among those legally admitted, there’s the “I obeyed the law, why give lawbreakers special treatment?” attitude, which I sympathize with.

        1. I don’t.

          1. And you are up for sheltering….how many?

            1. Every single one.

              1. In order to drive down wages. And build up the socialist party.

                1. DEY TERK R JERBS

        2. “Injustice for me? Injustice for ALL!” -conservaderps

  13. But we need the USDA to protect our CHILDREN from EVIL CORPORATION! Do you know what unsanctioned and unregulated tart cherry sales could do to our CHILDREN? Don’t you realize that tart cheries are a GATEWAY to HARD DRUGS? It’s a slippery slow, first you LET THEM SELL tart cherries, next they want to sell HEROIN. And then we become like SOMALA. Do you want to live in Somalia? I don’t! WHY DOES NOBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

  14. Price supports are stupid, period. The AAA was no doubt a major contributor to the severity of the Depression. Tart cherries are used in pies, too, I believe. My mom wanted some and I found a small can was 7 or 8 bucks.

  15. Hey Reason.

    What do the millennials think about this issue ?

    1. Who cares? My generation is ineffably stupid, with the few widely held beliefs they hold that are correct being correct only by accident.

      If Obama were to announce that the gays should be put in camps tomorrow, and all the college professors and schoolteachers fell in line, then the millennials would be the ones operating the clean electric trains to get them there before the end of the year.

      They’re fucking sheep, even more so then most Americans. A generation raised on the belief that everyone is special, that the government is a force for good, and that we can all do whatever we want with our lives.

      Oh, and they’re totally fucking ignorant about personal finance.

      1. Not you though, you doubtlessly stand out as special.

      2. A generation raised on the belief that everyone is special, that the government is a force for good, and that we can all do whatever we want with our lives.

        Except for matters of degree (which can probably be laid at the feet of Big PubSchool), this has probably been the mantra since the Baby Boomers.

        1. It’s also a silly collectivist generalization. Millennials played a huge role in Ron Paul’s 2012 campaign and prominence and will likely do the same for Rand.

          1. Are all generalizations incorrect?

            1. Are all generalizations incorrect?

              He probably believes so. Because it’s a bedrock principle among millennials, beaten into them at school, that generalizations and stereotypes are one step short of racism on the scale of social evil.

            2. Applied to people, yes. Individuals that make up groups of people are wickedly problematic for generalizations about those groups.

              1. problematic

                Use of this word is another way that millennials fucking suck. It has no fucking meaning other than “flies in the face of PC dogma”. It’s straight up SJW nonsense.

                1. By it I meant ‘tends to be wrong.’

                  Millennials voted disproportionately for Ron Paul in 12 and LP candidate Sarvis in your home state in 2013

                  1. “Bo Cara Esq.|7.12.14 @ 12:31PM|#

                    By it I meant ‘tends to be wrong.’

                    Millennials voted disproportionately for Ron Paul in 12 and LP candidate Sarvis in your home state in 2013″

                    For clarity =

                    Do you mean a “disproportionate” # of millenials voted for RP versus others, or that RP and others had a strong contingent of millenial voters relative to others?

                    Big difference.

              2. You are the walking/talking poster child for indoctrination.

                If over half of a particular group exhibits a common trait, it can be rightfully claimed that, IN GENERAL, that group exhibits a common trait.

                No one said ALL millennials were stupid…just the majority. You can argue for or against that premise, but it’s not WRONG simply because it’s a generalization.

                1. Virginian didn’t say in general, he said ‘millenials’ sucked, were stupid, would happily operate camps, etc. Those comments are demonstrably false.

                  1. Virginian didn’t say in general,

                    He didn’t need to. It was obvious to anyone who ISN’T an asshole.

                    1. He didn’t need to. It was obvious to anyone who ISN’T an asshole.

                      Pedants gonna pedant.

                    2. No, he just, like you usually do, isn’t concerned about being precise as about spouting off.

                      Smearing all Millenials is especially imprecise sense, as I’ve shown, they often far disproportionately support libertarians

                  2. Virginian didn’t say in general, he said ‘millenials’ sucked

                    Yeah, but by your logic he didn’t say they all suck either.

                    1. By your logic, does the phrase ‘dogs like to dig’ mean ‘some but not all dogs like digging?’

                    2. You’re the one talking about “being precise”, after which you make assumptions.

                      What I think about dogs means fuckall.

                    3. JUST SHUT THE FUCK UP! SHUT YOUR FUCKING OBNOXIOUS PEDANT FUCKING PIE HOLE! YOU ARE FUCKING WRONG! ADMIT YOU WERE FUCKING WRONG AND THEN, FOR THE LOVE OF FUCK, SHUT THE FUCK UP YOU ARROGANT LITTLE CUNT!

                    4. That too.

                    5. You are one upsetsble, cranky old man Francis. Remember your blood pressure 😉

                    6. Just once Bo. Just admit you’re wrong and being a pedant. Just once. Prove you don’t have some sort of psychological aversion to admitting you’re wrong. This isn’t even an important issue. Just say it.

                      “I was wrong.” Go on, just try. I promise the world won’t end.

                    7. By your logic, does the phrase ‘dogs like to dig’ mean ‘some but not all dogs like digging?’

                      In common usage it pretty much does. It’s a thing dogs are known for. Other things dogs are known for include chewing on the furniture, lifting their legs to pee, and chasing cats.

                    8. And if Bo wants to be literal with the phrase, it still doesn’t mean all dogs like to dig. It means, literally, that more than one dog likes to dig.

                  3. Yes, that is known as “hyperbole”, a common rhetorical device that most adults have no trouble understanding.

              3. I don’t see anything “problematic” about observing statistical regularities in populations of people.

                Financial illiteracy among young people is both real and documented, and it has serious political and economic consequences.

          2. Right, but the vast majority of under 30 people in this country are fucking retarded on a nearly visceral level. They believe absolutely insane shit with total wholeheartedness. I’m talking college educated people who believe that Obama saved us from the corporations, or think that we are only years away from some kind of insane climate catastrophe. Or the whole genmod food panic. Or the “vaccines cause autism!” crowd.

            Morons. Total fucking morons.

            1. That’s true of many Millennials, and false for many, which is my point.

              1. No shit.

                What I’m saying is that the Boomers might have been terrified of the flouride in the water, but there actually was flouride in the water. Communists in the government? Yeah, there actually were communists in the government.

                People now are batshit insane afraid of things that do not exist. That’s a new level of stupid and crazy.

                1. That’s ridiculous, every era has it’s silly moral panics over nothing. The same era that hunted the Communists in government had congressional hearings on the evils of … comic books, to take one example.

            2. think that we are only years away from some kind of insane climate catastrophe

              We are. It is just not the one they are expecting.

          3. A very few millenials were involved with the RP campaign.

      3. Our generation describes itself as environmentalist at a lower rate than any other age cohort. Don’t have the link, but it’s some good news.

        The problem with out generation isn’t so much that it’s extra stupid-I’m not convinced it is-but that it is extremely facil. Want to feel enlightened and good? Being in favor of gay marriage and against racism is all it takes. That’s it; that’s the be all end all of goodness.

        1. Being in favor of gay marriage and against racism is all it takes. That’s it; that’s the be all end all of goodness.

          Exactly.

          describes itself as environmentalist at a lower rate than any other age cohort.

          Well I’d argue that’s because they’re so fucking brainwashed to be environmentalists they don’t know that’s what they are. Fish don’t know they’re in water either.

          Most people I know my age have a hatred of heavy industry, energy production, use of natural resources, etc. Then there’s the whole global warming nuttery.

          They don’t call themselves socialists either, but when they all want free college educations, that’s pretty fucking socialist.

          1. People with environmentalist leanings love to say it loud and proud maybe that’s giving the illusion that its a universal value in our cohort. We’ll be silent but deadly…

  16. Nothing left to cut.

    1. Love that song. That show Sherlock on BBC brilliantly incorporated it into one of the scenes.

  17. Nothing left to cut.

    President Paul found another agency he’d shut down on day one.

  18. If you’re going to make a musical reference to “Cherry Wine” at least make it somewhat current:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6903zFUIxoU

  19. it won’t be long before courts will be forced to agree.

    No they won’t. It’s the FYTW clause in all laws. Judges swear an oath to it.

  20. Some things government should be involved in.

    This ain’t one of them.

  21. Why does anybody need to eat tart cherries?

    /prog.

    Personally, I love things that are bitter and tart.

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