Wickard v. Filburn
Supreme Court Extends Commerce Power To Production
Writing for a unanimous Court, Justice Jackson held that even unmarketed excess production has an effect on interstate commerce. As such, it could be regulated under the federal government's commerce power, granted in Article I, section 8 of the Constitution, which permits Congress to "regulate Commerce . . . among the several States." Filburn's excess production, of itself, was insignificant, but when combined with other unmarketed excess wheat production, it had a clear impact on interstate commerce:
The maintenance by government regulation of a price for wheat undoubtedly can be accomplished as effectively by sustaining or increasing the demand as by limiting the supply . . . That appellee's own contribution to the demand for wheat may be trivial by itself is not enough to remove him from the scope of federal regulation where, as here, taken together with that of many others similarly situated, is far from trivial . . . Congress may properly have considered that wheat consumed on the farm where grown if wholly outside the scheme of regulation would have a substantial effect in defeating and obstructing [the Second Agricultural Act's] purpose to stimulate trade therein at increased prices.
The Court had long debated whether the commerce power authorized federal control only of goods moving through interstate commerce, or of production itself. Wickard put to rest this long argument about whether "indirect" or only "direct" effects on interstate commerce could be regulated. After this case, which originated during the hard times of the 1930s and 1940s, economic realities would determine the extent of federal regulation.