Have you ever wondered why you’re paying $3-$4 for a gallon of milk? What if I told you that the federal government had passed a law establishing the minimum price dairy farmers can sell their milk to wholesalers? It’s true.
In 2006 Congress passed a law that that establishes fixed minimum prices for the sale of raw milk from dairies. Dairy farmers Hein and Hettinga of Arizona believe the law was pushed through Congress by those trying to force them to sell their milk at the same prices of other dairy farmers. The Hettinga dairy routinely sold their milk for prices lower than most other dairy farmers.
The Hettinga’s have tried to file suit to fight the federal law that targeted them and their business. The initial court in which the suit was filed dismissed the case without even requiring the federal government to prove their case. They then took their case to an appeals court that followed the example of the lower court and dismissed the case without even asking the feds to prove their case. Both courts ruled in their dismissals that a plaintiff can be denied the opportunity to prove the government wrong when the government tells the court that a law is reasonable.
They are now asking the Supreme Court to force lower courts to allow challengers of a federal law the opportunity to present their case. The Pacific Legal Foundation has joined in helping the Hettinga’s case. PCL Principal Attorney Timothy Sandefur commented on the suit saying:
“This is about whether people challenging the constitutionality of any law can get a fair trial, or whether the government can just recite some magic words and make the case disappear.”
“The trial court said that the Hettingas were not even allowed to introduce evidence to prove their case — simply because the government said the law was constitutional. The government’s mere say-so was deemed sufficient. And that just cannot be right.”
“In lawsuits challenging business regulations, courts apply the ‘rational basis test. The plaintiff must prove that the law is unreasonable. While that’s not an easy thing to prove, it can be done. What this decision does is change the ‘rational basis’ rule into a set of magic words that the government can use to get any case against it thrown out of court.”
“The court of appeals expanded and transformed the rational basis test, by saying not only that plaintiffs have to prove a law irrational, but that if the government just asserts that the law is okay, that’s enough reason to dismiss the case. The Supreme Court has never gone that far.”
What I find interesting is that price fixing was first declared to be illegal in the U.S. in 1890 when Congress passed the Sherman Antitrust Act. There have been several modifications over the years, but in essence, the federal act is still on the books and price fixing is supposed to be illegal. Yet, it was the federal government that passed a law to help established a fixed minimum price for raw milk sold by diaries.
America was founded on the free market system. Suppliers of any product are free to charge whatever they want and consumers are free to purchase at said prices or shop elsewhere. It’s that principle that has made companies like Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club and Costco so successful. On the counter side, that same free enterprise system is what makes stores like Giorgio Armani and Oscar de la Renta, and other high class stores able to charge outrageous prices for their merchandise.
If the federal government is allowed to start passing laws establishing prices, minimums or maximums, for any products, the entire free market system as we know it in America is over. And if courts are allowed to simply dismiss any lawsuit challenging such governmental price fixing laws because the government declares they are reasonable, it leaves the American producer and consumer without any legal recourse. The final result is a socialistic government that will ultimately control everyone’s business dealings.