Block v. Commun. Nutrition Inst.,
467 U.S. 340 (1984)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Block v. Commun. Nutrition Inst., 467 U.S. 340 (1984)

Block v. Community Nutrition Institute

No. 83-458

Argued April 24, 1984

Decided June 4, 1984

467 U.S. 340


To bring destabilizing competition among dairy farmers under control, the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937 (Act) authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture (Secretary) to issue milk market orders setting the minimum prices that handlers (those who process dairy products) must pay to producers (dairy farmers) for their milk products. Pursuant to this authority, the Secretary issued market orders under which handlers are required to pay for "reconstituted milk" (milk manufactured by mixing milk powder with water) the minimum price for Class II milk (raw milk used to produce such products as dry milk powder), rather than the higher price covering Class I milk (raw milk processed and bottled for fluid consumption). The orders assume that handlers will use the reconstituted milk to manufacture surplus milk products, but for any portion of reconstituted milk not so used, handlers must make a "compensatory payment" equal to the difference between Class I and Class II milk product prices. Respondents -- three individual consumers of fluid dairy products, a handler regulated by the market orders, and a nonprofit organization -- brought suit in Federal District Court, contending that the compensatory payment requirement makes reconstituted milk uneconomical for handlers to process. The District Court held, inter alia, that the consumers had no standing to challenge the orders. The Court of Appeals disagreed, holding that the consumers had suffered injury-in-fact, their injuries were redressable, and they were within the zone of interests protected by the Act, and that the Act's structure and purposes did not reveal the type of "clear and convincing evidence of congressional intent needed to overcome the presumption in favor of judicial review."

Held: The individual consumers may not obtain judicial review of the milk market orders in question. Pp. 467 U. S. 345-353.

(a) It is clear from the structure of the Act that Congress intended that judicial review of market orders ordinarily be confined to suits by handlers in accordance with the provisions of the Act expressly entitling them to such review in a federal district court after exhausting their administrative remedies. Allowing consumers to sue the Secretary would severely disrupt the Act's complex and delicate administrative scheme. Pp. 467 U. S. 345-348.

Page 467 U. S. 341

(b) The presumption favoring judicial review of administrative action does not control in cases such as this one, where the congressional intent to preclude consumer suits is "fairly discernible" in the detail of the legislative scheme. The Act contemplates a cooperative venture among the Secretary, producers, and handlers; consumer participation is not provided for or desired under that scheme. Stark v. Wickard, 321 U. S. 288, distinguished. Pp. 467 U. S. 348-352.

225 U.S.App.D.C. 387, 698 F.2d 1239, reversed.

O'CONNOR, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all other Members joined, except STEVENS, J., who took no part in the decision of the case.

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