Today in Horne Et al. v. Department of Agriculture the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that the government must pay just compensation when it takes personal property from an owner, just as when it takes real property. Purportedly to help maintain stable markets for agricultural products, the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937 authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to order individual growers to physically set aside a portion of their crop. This portion is taken without compensation and disposed of by the government. The Horne family refused to turn over a portion of their raisin crop and were fined the fair market value of the raisins they retained plus a $200,000.00 civil penalty for disobeying the turnover order. Citing legal authority beginning with Magna Carta through the American colonists struggles to prevent the seizure of goods and supplies by the British Army, Chief Justice John Roberts made clear that in the case of a physical appropriation, there is no material distinction between personal property and real property and that if such personal property is taken for a public purpose the owner must be compensated.
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