Get ready to read the weirdest fact you're likely to encounter all month: There exists in our country a national raisin reserve. And a 68-year-old California raisin farmer has spent the last 11 years fighting it. The Washington Post reports the very unusual and very fascinating story of Marvin Horne, who it dubs the greatest "outlaw ... in the world of dried fruit." For more than a decade, Horne has been defying a Truman-era regulation that for the past 64 years has given the USDA the ability to seize a portion of farmers' raisin crops if it believes supply will outpace demand; the fruit is deposited in locations around California, where it can be sold to foreigners, fed to cows, or just sit.
And while the intention is to drive up the prices the remaining crop can fetch, the feds often don't pay the farmers for what they do take (revenue from overseas sales goes first to storage, related salaries, and the promotion of raisins). In 2002, Horne had had enough, and stopped complying. He has since racked up $650,000 in fines, logged 1.2 million pounds of unpaid raisins, and notched himself one Supreme Court decision. The court last month ruled that a lower court has to decide whether Marketing Order 989 is constitutional. (The Wall Street Journal has a good succinct recap of the legal wranglings here.) The Post piece is full of colorful lines from Horne, among them: "The hell with the whole mess. ... It’s like being a serf. ... You have heard of the rape of the Sabine women? This is even worse." The Post has more on his ordeal, which included private eyes staking out his farm. (And in other, less contentious, farm news, two Minnesota farmers made an amazing find in their cornfield.)