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Response or Comment

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Roscoe C. Filburn owned a small farm in Ohio where he raised poultry, dairy cows, and a modest acreage of winter wheat. Some wheat he fed his animals, some he sold, and some he kept for his family's daily bread. The Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938 limited the wheat Mr. Filburn could grow without incurring penalties, but his 1941 crop exceeded those limits. Mr. Filburn sued. He said Claude Wickard, the Secretary of Agriculture, could not enforce the AAI's limits because Congress lacked authority to regulate wheat grown for one's own use. He reasoned: In our federal system, the states have authority to legislate except where the Constitution constrains them, but the federal government may legislate only where the Constitution authorizes it. The Constitution permits Congress to "regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States" and may "make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution" its Commerce Clause powers. Mr. Filburn thought that growing and eating wheat on his land were acts "local in character" and that "their effects upon interstate commerce are at most 'indirect.'"


Reprinted with the permission of the Hastings Center Report and Wiley-Blackwell.