Appellant: Claude R. Wickard, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture
Appellee: Rosco C. Filburn
Appellant's Claim: That the federal government has constitutional authority provided in the Commerce Clause to regulate wheat production, regardless if the particular crops were intended for sale in the market.
Chief Lawyers for Appellant: Francis Biddle, U.S. Attorney General, and Charles Fahy, U.S. Solicitor General
Chief Lawyer for Appellee: Webb R. Clark
Justices for the Court: Hugo L. Black, William O. Douglas, Felix Frankfurter, Robert H. Jackson, Frank Murphy, Stanley F. Reed, Owen J. Roberts, Chief Justice Harlan F. Stone
Justices Dissenting: None (James Francis Byrnes did not participate)
Date of Decision: November 9, 1942
Decision: Ruled in favor of Wickard in that the federal government has broad powers under the Commerce Clause to regulate all activities that remotely may affect interstate commerce.
Significance: The ruling established an exceptionally broad interpretation of the federal government's powers under the Commerce Clause. Congress could regulate agricultural production that might affect interstate commerce, even if it is not for sale. Federal and state regulation affecting nearly all forms of agricultural production and trade in the United States grew through the next several decades.
Agricultural production in the United States, largely involving small family-owned farms, enjoyed good economic times following the American Civil War (1861–1865) through World War I (1914–1918). The 1920s saw the rise of mass productivity inspired by the industrial revolution leading to increased production. With the greater supply of farm produce, prices began to substantially decline by the end of the decade. Many family farms folded due to inadequate profits. With the stock market crash of October of 1929 and the following Great Depression through the 1930s, economic hardships for farmers further increased. Much of the public was no longer able to afford farm produce and prices fell dramatically. Without sufficient profits, foreclosures (ending a property right to pay a debt) on farms whose owners could no longer to pay their mortgages increased sharply.
In reaction to the desperate trends, farmers began organizing to save their livelihoods. Some withheld food from markets to force prices back up. Violence erupted as efforts were made to keep some farmers from delivering their produce to market. Agitation against the government for lack of support increased. Some states began passing laws making it more difficult for banks for foreclose on farms. With a national farmer strike planned for May 13, 1933, newly elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933–1945) signed the Agricultural Adjustment Act on May 12 to...