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Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 

Supreme Court of the United States






Federalism At Work




Doctrinal Fundementals  Federalism and Judicial Review

Quick Notes

o         Filburn is a farmer and he contests a Department of Agriculture wheat production quota as unconstitutional, contending that it goes beyond the reach of the Commerce Clause.

o         Trivial intrastate activities combined with other similar situated activates affect interstate commerce may be resulted by the commerce power, even if the effect is indirect.

Book Name

Constitutional Law : Stone, Seidman, Sunstein, Tushnet.  ISBN:  978-0-7355-7719-0



o         Whether Congress may use the commerce power to regulate local activity, not regarded as commerce, that has only an indirect effect on interstate commerce?  Yes.




o         District Court of three judges which permanently enjoined the Secretary of Agriculture and other appellants from enforcing certain penalties against the appellee, a farmer, under the Agricultural Adjustment Act


o         Reversed




Key Phrases


Pl Wickard

Df Filburn

Party Description

o          Filburn is an Ohio farmer, sued Secretary of Agriculture (Wickard) to stop enforcement of a penalty imposed under the Agricultural Adjustment Act.


o         Filburn received a $117 penalty for harvesting 461 bushels and his allotment was 222 bushels, which was over twice as much wheat as allowed under his quota

Beyond The Commerce Power

o         Filburn asserted that the quota provisions of the Act were beyond the commerce power.

Lower Court

o         The lower court issued an injunction.

Wickard Appealed

o         Secretary of State appealed

Justice Jackson


Court - Act extends to consumption

o         The Act extends federal regulation to production intended solely for consumption on the farm itself.

o         The quotas include not only what can be sold, but also what is to be consumed on the farm.


Filburn Argues Beyond reach of commerce power

o         Filburn contends that the Act regulates production and consumption of wheat, which is beyond the reach of the commerce power

o         These activities are local in character.

o         Their effect on interstate commerce is indirect at most.


Secretary of State Wickard Argues

o         Wickard contends that the statute regulates the marketing of the wheat.


Court Power of Congress does not use a formula

o         Questions of the power of Congress are not to be decided by reference to a formula giving controlling force to designations such as "production" and "indirect," rather than considering the actual effects of the activity in question upon interstate commerce.


Indirect Activity still effects interstate Commerce

o          Even if Filburn's activity is local and may not be regarded as commerce, it may be regulated by Congress if it exerts a substantial economic effect on interstate commerce, regardless of whether the effect is direct or indirect.


Acts Purpose Increase Market Price of Wheat

o         One of the primary purposes of the Act was to increase the market price of wheat by limiting the volume on the market.


Home-Consumption Substantial Effect

o         Home-consumed wheat could have a substantial influence on price and market conditions, since it could flow into the market as the price increased, but then would serve to check the rising prices.


Trivia By Itself, but Taken with Others

o         One person's contribution to the demand for wheat may be trivial by itself is not enough to remove him from the scope of federal regulation where, the contribution, taken together with that of many others similarly situated, is far from trivial

o         The man who grew it would have no need to look to the open market for his needs.


Courts - Holding

o         Homegrown wheat competes with wheat in commerce.   Reversed.




o         An activity that is local and may not be regarded as commerce yet may be regulated by Congress under the Commerce Clause if it exerts a substantial economic effect on interstate commerce, regardless of whether the effect is direct or indirect.


Class Notes