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

Facts—The Agriculture Act of 1938, based upon the commerce power of the Constitution, regulated the marketing of various farm products. Congress set de- tailed limits in the act and left it to the secretary of agriculture to put the act into effect. The purpose of the act was “to regulate interstate and foreign commerce in cotton, wheat, corn, tobacco, and rice to the extent necessary to provide an orderly, adequate, and balanced flow of such commodities in interstate and foreign commerce through storage of reserve supplies, loans, marketing, quotas, assisting farmers to obtain, in so far as practicable, parity prices for such commodities and parity of income, and assisting consumers to obtain an adequate and steady supply of such commodities at fair prices.” The appellants brought suit under the portion of the act dealing with marketing quotas for flue-cured tobacco.

Question—(a) Is the act beyond the powers delegated to Congress?

(b) Does it result in an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power to the secretary of agriculture?

(c) Does it deprive farmers of their property without due process of law?

Decision—(a) No; (b) No; (c) No.

ReasonsJ. Roberts (7–2). (a) The tobacco produced was for interstate commerce. The law did not limit the amount of the crop grown, but limited only what might be sold. It was a regulation of commerce granted to Congress in the Constitution. “The motive of Congress in exerting the power is irrelevant to the validity of the legislation.”

  • There was no improper delegation of legislative power since definite standards were set down in the act both in the fixing of quotas and in their allotment among states and farms.
  • The act dealt only with the marketing and not with the growing of crops. The farmers could hold over their tobacco until a late year if they saw fit.

J. Butler, in dissent, cited United States v. Butler to support his view that this law was an improper interference with state powers under the Tenth Amendment.

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