American Constitutional Law: Introductory Essays & Selected Cases

By Alpheus Thomas Mason; William M. Beaney | Go to book overview

Mulford v. Smith

307 U.S. 38, 59 S.Ct. 648, 83 L.Ed. 1092 ( 1939)

The facts of the case are contained in the opinion of the Court.

MR. JUSTICE ROBERTS delivered the opinion of the Court.

The appellants, producers of fluecured tobacco, assert that the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938...is unconstitutional as it affects their 1938 crop.

The portions of the statute involved are those included in Title III, providing marketing quotas for flue-cured tobacco. The Act directs that when the supply is found to exceed the level defined in the Act as the "reserve supply level" a national marketing quota shall become effective which will permit enough flue-cured tobacco to be marketed during the ensuing marketing year to maintain the supply at the reserve supply level. The quota is to be apportioned to the farms on which tobacco is grown. Penalties are to be paid by tobacco auction warehousemen for marketing tobacco from a farm in excess of its quota.

Section 311 is a finding by the Congress that the marketing of tobacco is a basic industry which directly affects interstate and foreign commerce; that stable conditions in such marketing are necessary to the general welfare; that tobacco is sold on a national market and its products move almost wholly in interstate and foreign commerce; that without federal assistance the farmers are unable to bring about orderly marketing, with the consequence that abnormally excessive supplies are produced and dumped indiscriminately on the national market; that this disorderly marketing of excess supply burdens and obstructs interstate and foreign commerce, causes reduction in prices and consequent injury to commerce, creates disparity between the prices of tobacco in interstate and foreign commerce and the prices of industrial products in such commerce, and diminishes the volume of interstate commerce in industrial products; and that the establishment of quotas as provided by the Act is necessary and appropriate to promote, foster and obtain an orderly flow of tobacco in interstate and foreign commerce....

Section 314 provides that if tobacco in excess of the quota for the farm on which the tobacco is produced is marketed through a warehouseman, the latter must pay to the Secretary a penalty equal to fifty per cent. of the market price of the excess, and may deduct an amount equivalent to the penalty from the price paid the producer.... A few days before the 1938 auction sales were to take place, the appellants, who produce flue-cured tobacco in southern Georgia and northern Florida, filed a bill in equity in a Georgia state court against local warehousemen to restrain them from deducting penalties under the Act from the sales price of tobacco to be sold at their auction warehouses on behalf of appellants. The bill alleged that the Act is unconstitutional....

The appellants plant themselves upon three propositions: (1) that the Act is

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