Florida Avocado Growers v. Paul,
373 U.S. 132 (1963)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Florida Avocado Growers v. Paul, 373 U.S. 132 (1963)

Florida Lime & Avocado Growers, Inc. v. Paul

No. 45

Argued January 8, 1963

Decided May 13, 1963*

373 U.S. 132


Appellants, who are engaged in the business of growing, packing and marketing Florida avocados in interstate commerce, sued in a Federal District Court to enjoin appellees, state officers of California, from enforcing § 792 of the California Agricultural Code, which prohibits the transportation or sale in California of avocados containing less than 8% of oil by weight, against Florida avocados certified as mature under federal regulations issued under the Federal Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937. They contended that § 792 of the California statute, as so applied, was unconstitutional, because, (1) under the Supremacy Clause, it must be deemed displaced by the federal standard for determining the maturity of avocados grown in Florida; (2) its application to Florida avocados denied appellants the equal protection of the laws in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, and (3) its application to them unreasonably burdened or discriminated against interstate marketing of Florida avocados in violation of the Commerce Clause. A three-judge District Court convened to hear the case denied an injunction on the ground that the proofs did not establish that application of § 792 to Florida avocados violated any provision of the Federal Constitution.


1. Section 792 is not invalid under the Supremacy Clause, because there is neither such actual conflict between the two schemes of regulation that both cannot stand in the same area, nor is there evidence of a congressional design to preempt the field. Pp. 373 U. S. 141-152.

(a) The present record demonstrates no inevitable collision between the two schemes of regulation, despite the dissimilarity of the standards. Pp. 373 U. S. 142-143.

Page 373 U. S. 133

(b) The subject matter of the California regulation, while not concerned with health or safety, is one traditionally within the scope of the power of the States to prevent deception of consumers in the retail marketing of foodstuffs. Pp. 373 U. S. 143-146.

(c) Neither the terms nor the history of the Federal Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937 discloses a congressional intent to displace traditional state powers to regulate the retail distribution of agricultural commodities. Pp. 373 U. S. 146-152.

2. Section 792 does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, because it does not work an irrational discrimination between persons or groups of persons. P. 373 U. S. 152.

3. The findings of the District Court with respect to the effect of § 792 upon interstate commerce cannot be reviewed, because of substantial uncertainty as to the content of the record on which those findings were predicated. Therefore, the judgment is reversed in this respect, and the case is remanded to the District Court for a new trial of appellants' contentions that § 792 unreasonably burdens or discriminates against interstate commerce in Florida avocados. Pp. 373 U. S. 152-156.

4. Since the appellants showed sufficient injury to warrant at least a trial of their allegations, the District Court properly refused to dismiss the complaint for want of equity jurisdiction. Pp. 373 U. S. 157-159.

197 F.Supp. 780, affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

Primary Holding

Pre-emption does not arise if there is no direct conflict between federal and state laws, meaning that it is possible to comply with both of them simultaneously, and if the state law does not frustrate the purpose of the federal law.


California prohibited the sale or transportation within its borders of avocados that did not meet a certain standard of maturity, which was defined according to oil content in its Agricultural Code. The federal Secretary of Agriculture used a different system for determining the maturity of avocados that were grown in Florida. Oil content was not a factor in these standards. Florida avocado growers tried to prevent the enforcement of the California law against them with regard to avocados that met the federal standard for maturity but did not have the oil level required by the California law.



  • William Joseph Brennan, Jr. (Author)
  • Earl Warren
  • Hugo Lafayette Black
  • William Orville Douglas
  • Tom C. Clark
  • John Marshall Harlan II
  • Potter Stewart
  • Byron Raymond White
  • Arthur Joseph Goldberg

A federal law will preempt a state law if it is physically impossible to comply with both laws. In this situation, it would be possible to comply with both laws, since the Florida growers could have met the California standard if they had allowed their avocados more time to grow. This means that there is no inherent conflict between the two laws.

Case Commentary

Even though the laws provided different requirements, it was not physically impossible for an entity engaged in interstate commerce to comply with both of them, since California simply provided an enhanced version of the federal standards. This makes it unnecessary for a court to examine Congressional intent more deeply.

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