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U.S. Supreme Court

National Broiler Marketing Assn. v. United States, 436 U.S. 816 (1978)

National Broiler Marketing Assn. v. United States

No. 77-117

Argued February 21, 1978

Decided June 12, 1978

436 U.S. 816


The United States brought an antitrust suit against petitioner, a nonprofit cooperative association the members of which are integrated producers of broiler chickens. The complaint alleged that petitioner, which performs various marketing and purchasing functions for its members, had conspired with others, including its members, in violation of § 1 of the Sherman Act. Petitioner asserted that its activities with its members were sheltered from suit under § 1 of the Capper-Volstead Act, which permits "[p]ersons engaged in the production of agricultural products as farmers" to join in cooperative associations. The District Court concluded that the activities of petitioner's members justified their classification as farmers, and that the Capper-Volstead protection claimed was therefore available. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that petitioner's members were not all "farmers" in the ordinary meaning of that word as it was used at the time the Capper-Volstead Act was passed.

Held: Because not all of petitioner's members qualify as farmers under the Capper-Volstead Act, it is not entitled to the protection from the antitrust laws afforded by that Act. Case-Swayne Co. v. Sunkist Growers, Inc., 389 U. S. 384 (1967). Pp. 436 U. S. 822-829.

(a) The language of the Capper-Volstead Act reveals that not all persons engaged in the production of agricultural products are entitled to form cooperatives protected by that Act. P. 436 U. S. 823.

(b) The legislative history of the Act reveals that Congress did not intend the protection of the Act to extend to the processors and packers to whom farmers sold their goods, even when the relationship was such that the processors and packers bore a part of the risks of a fluctuating agricultural market. Pp. 436 U. S. 824-827.

(c) Those among petitioner's members who own neither a breeder flock nor a hatchery and who maintain no "grow-out" facility at which broiler flocks are raised and whose economic roles are essentially those of packers or processors, are not "farmers" within the meaning of the Capper-Volstead Act. Pp. 436 U. S. 827-829.

550 F.2d 1380, affirmed and remanded.

Page 436 U. S. 817

BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and BRENNAN, MARSHALL, POWELL, REHNQUIST, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 436 U. S. 829. WHITE, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which STEWART, J., joined, post, p. 436 U. S. 840.

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