Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111; 63 S. Ct. 82; 87 L. Ed. 122 (1942)

Facts—Filburn owned and operated a small farm in Montgomery County, Ohio, maintaining a herd of dairy cattle, selling milk, raising poultry, and selling poultry and eggs. He was accustomed to raising a small acreage of winter wheat, of which a portion was sold, part fed to poultry and livestock, part used for making flour for home consumption, and the rest kept for seeding the following year. In 1940, according to the Second Agricultural Adjustment Act, he was given a wheat acreage of 11.1 acres and a normal yield of 20.1 bushels of wheat an acre. He sowed, however, 23 acres, and harvested from his excess acreage 239 bushels, which was subject to a penalty of 49 cents a bushel, or $117.11 in all. Filburn claimed that he did not produce excess wheat for the purpose of marketing but for his own consumption on his farm. He refused to pay the penalty, or to store the excess according to regulations.

Question—Does Congress possess the power under the commerce clause of the Constitution to regulate the production and consumption of wheat des[1]tined for personal use on the farm?

Decision—Yes.

Reasons—J. Jackson (9–0). Marketing, according to the act, included, in addition to the conventional meaning, whatever might be consumed on the premises. Questions of federal power cannot be sidestepped by calling such activities indirect. Whether the appellant’s activity was local or whether it was regarded as commerce or not, if it exerted a substantial economic effect on interstate commerce, such activity could be regulated by Congress. The consumption of homegrown wheat is the most variable factor in the disappearance of the wheat crop. Even though the appellant’s contribution to the demand for wheat may have been trivial, it did not remove him from the field of federal regulation. His contribution, together with others in similar circumstances, had a substantial influence on price and market conditions. Therefore, homegrown wheat competes with commercially grown wheat in commerce. The stimulation of commerce is a regulatory function clearly within the power of Congress.

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