Roscoe Filburn, New Deal Farmer

Roscoe Filburn, a farmer in Montgomery County, Ohio, planted 23 acres of wheat in fall 1940 and harvested 462 bushels in July 1941. He thereby exceeded his acreage allotment for that planting season under the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938. Acting under the 1938 Act, the agricultural conservation committee for Montgomery County assessed a penalty of $0.49 against each of Mr. Filburn's 239 excess bushels. Mr. Filburn challenged the penalty, and the entire Agricultural Adjustment Act, as a violation of the constitutional limits on Congress's power to regulate interstate commerce.

 

In a landmark decision styled Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942), the Supreme Court rejected Mr. Filburn's challenge and upheld the Agricultural Adjustment Act. Wheat grown on the Filburn farm, though consumed on the premises and never shipped out of state, sufficiently affected the national economy to permit federal regulation of Mr. Filburn's crop and that of millions of other similarly situated farmers. For detailed analysis of the Filburn decision and its contemporary significance, see Jim Chen, Filburn's Legacy, 52 Emory L.J. 1719 (2003), and Jim Chen, The Story of Wickard v. Filburn: Agriculture, Aggregation, and Commerce, in Constitutional Law Stories (Michael C. Dorf ed., 2d ed., Foundation Press, forthcoming 2009).

The Filburn farm today is, practically speaking, the site of the Salem Mall near Dayton, Ohio.



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