Remembering Roscoe Filburn

Published in the July 2012 Issue Published online: Jul 12, 2012 Tyler J. Baum, Editor
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The relationship between growers and the federal government is complicated. Many growers want the feds to stay out of their business, because the feds too often have a Midas Touch of lead, reaching beyond Constitutional duties and killing something good and productive dead in its tracks. However, growers sometimes rely on subsidies to keep their businesses running in the midst of rising costs, fluctuating demand and acts of nature.

One of the best examples of the crippling relationship between federal government and private business is exemplified in the story of Roscoe Filburn, an Ohio grower who was ordered by the government in 1941-using the now-much-misinterpreted Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution-to destroy crops he had planted for his own use.

In an effort to stabilize the price of wheat, the feds set quotas on wheat through the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938. In 1941, Filburn was allotted 11.1 acres of wheat to plant, but he actually planted 23 acres-with the intention of using that extra wheat for his livestock, future planting and to grind into flour for his family's consumption. None of it was intended to enter directly into the marketplace. However, because his harvest was 239 bushels in excess of his allotment, he was ordered by the feds to destroy his crops AND pay a hefty fine.

After a federal district court ruled in Filburn's favor, the feds appealed and took it to the Supreme Court, who set a dangerous precedent. While the federal government does have the power to regulate interstate commerce, the Supreme Court erroneously determined that if Filburn had not used his own wheat, he would've purchased wheat on the open market-which affected interstate commerce; therefore, Filburn was subject to the fine.

The case kicked open the door to unprecedented encroachment by the feds into personal and business affairs, using the Commerce Clause as justification.

This story is detailed in a new book, called Remember Roscoe Filburn by Lt. Col. Douglas J. Lising. Lising uses the story as a springboard in this 224-page softbound book to examine the history of Congressional power. He makes the case for a Constitutional amendment to more clearly specify a more limited role in regulating commerce. The book also talks about the relationship between the government and growers throughout history, how growers can ensure they don't become the next Roscoe Filburn and finding a balance between individual liberty and government control.

We all know the federal government is beyond out-of-control. I just read the other day about how a Utah school was fined $15,000 for accidentally selling soda to students during lunch period by neglecting to shut off a vending machine-violating a federal law.

And when it comes to their specified Constitutional duties, they largely neglect them. As of this writing, it has been nearly 1,100 days-more than three years-since the Senate has passed a budget.

I encourage readers to find this book wherever books are sold. It's called Remember Roscoe Filburn by Lt. Col. Douglas J. Lising.