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MICHIGAN CANNERS & FREEZERS ASSOCIATION v. AGRICULTURAL MARKETING AND BARGAINING BOARD ET AL.

decided: June 11, 1984.

MICHIGAN CANNERS & FREEZERS ASSOCIATION, INC., ET AL
v.
AGRICULTURAL MARKETING AND BARGAINING BOARD ET AL.



APPEAL FROM THE SUPREME COURT OF MICHIGAN.

Brennan, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Author: Brennan

[ 467 U.S. Page 463]

 JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

A perceived need to help the American farmer in his economic relations with large and powerful agricultural processors has moved Congress and various States to enact laws designed to bolster the farmer's bargaining power when bringing his goods to market. This case involves two such laws: the federal Agricultural Fair Practices Act of 1967 and the State of Michigan's Agricultural Marketing and Bargaining Act (Michigan Act). The question presented is whether certain provisions of the Michigan Act, which accord agricultural cooperative associations exclusive bargaining authority for the sale of agricultural products, are pre-empted by the federal Act. The Supreme Court of Michigan held that the Michigan Act is not pre-empted. 416 Mich. 706, 332 N. W. 2d 134 (1982).

[ 467 U.S. Page 464]

     We noted probable jurisdiction, 464 U.S. 912 (1983), and now reverse.

I

A

The federal Agricultural Fair Practices Act (AFPA), 82 Stat. 93, 7 U. S. C. § 2301 et seq., protects the right of farmers and other producers*fn1 of agricultural commodities to join cooperative associations through which to market their products.*fn2 Responding to "the growing concentration of power in the hands of fewer and larger buyers [of agricultural products]," S. Rep. No. 474, 90th Cong., 1st Sess., 2-3 (1967), Congress enacted the AFPA to rectify a perceived imbalance in bargaining position between producers and processors of such products. Although the Act's principal purpose is to protect individual producers from interference by processors when deciding whether to belong to a producers' association, the Act also protects the producer from coercion by associations of producers. The AFPA thus provides that it is unlawful for either a processor or a producers' association to engage in practices that interfere with a producer's freedom to choose whether to bring his products to market himself or to sell them through a producers' cooperative association. 7 U. S. C. § 2303. Specifically, § 2303(a) forbids "handlers" --

[ 467 U.S. Page 465]

     defined to include both processors and producers' associations*fn3 -- to "coerce any producer in the exercise of his right to join and belong to or to refrain from joining or belonging to an association of producers." Similarly, § 2303(c) forbids handlers to "coerce or intimidate any producer to enter into, maintain, breach, cancel, or terminate a membership agreement or marketing contract with an association of producers or a contract with a handler."*fn4

[ 467 U.S. Page 466]

     The Michigan Act, Mich. Comp. Laws § 290.701 et seq. (1984), also designed to facilitate collective action among producers, includes the same prohibitions as the federal Act. It goes beyond the federal statute, however, by extensively regulating the activities of producers' associations. Most importantly, the Michigan Act establishes a state-administered system by which producers' associations are organized and certified as exclusive bargaining agents for all producers of a particular commodity. §§ 290.703, 290.707. Under Michigan's system, if an association's membership constitutes more than 50% of the producers of a particular commodity, and its members' production accounts for more than 50% of the commodity's total production, the association may apply to the state Agricultural Marketing and Bargaining Board for accreditation as the exclusive bargaining agent for all producers of that particular commodity. § 290.707(c).*fn5 When the

[ 467 U.S. Page 467]

     Board accredits an association as the agent for the producers of a particular commodity, all producers of that commodity, regardless of whether they have chosen to become members

[ 467 U.S. Page 468]

     of the association, must pay a service fee to the association and must abide by the terms of the contracts the association negotiates with processors. §§ 290.710(1), 290.713(1).*fn6 Thus, the Michigan Act creates an "agency shop" arrangement among agricultural producers whenever there is majority support for such an arrangement among the producers of a particular commodity.

B

The Michigan Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Association, Inc. (MACMA), a producers' association accredited under the Michigan Act, is the sole sales and bargaining representative for asparagus producers in the State.*fn7 In 1974, as permitted by the Michigan Act, MACMA negotiated contracts on behalf of Michigan asparagus growers to sell the 1974 asparagus crop. In response, appellants Dukesherer Farms and Ferris Pierson, asparagus growers that would be bound by the contract, along with the Michigan Canners & Freezers Association, Inc., an association of asparagus processors,*fn8 sued MACMA in state court seeking a declaratory judgment that those provisions of the Michigan Act requiring service fees and mandatory adherence to ...


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