If you head just about due east inland from Salinas, California you will come to Kerman. And in Kerman, California you may run into raisin farmer Marvin Horne. Marvin has been battling the Federal Government, with capital letters, over a WW II era regulation that established the Raisin Administrative Committee. The RAC is Fresno-based, just east of Kerman, and is tasked with taking a percentage of farmer’s raisin crops in order to manage supply, as only a government agency can. According to the Washington Post it’s selling of its accumulated raisin hoard generated $65 million recently.So the agency is pleased to continue to do business it seems and raisin farmers have to hand over their tithes, just like the olden days. Marvin had enough of this archaic highway robbery in 2002 and has been battling the Raisin Administrative Committee ever since. He now owes nearly 3/4 of a million dollars in fines and about 1.2 million pounds of raisins to the RAC. His case will soon be heard by 9th Circuit, (thanks to the Supreme Court), which will decide if he is justly protesting a law which is unconstitutional. If he loses, he goes bankrupt.

In the detailed Washington Post story, not a word about Salinas, California, and the obvious pun that hangs from the vine waiting to be plucked. What Salinas native Steinbeck would have thought of Marvin Horne’s battle with the federal government and whether he would have penned a short novel on the matter is, of course, unknowable. We do know that Steinbeck went from being a communist supporter in the 1930’s to offering his services to the CIA in the early 50’s. And he headed to the White House in 1966 with his active-duty, enlisted son to meet his friend LBJ. So his views evolved from those he held back in the dirty thirties, if you will. Like Ronald Reagan’s views did as well, although Reagan’s brush with communism seems to have been far more brief than Steinbeck’s. So Steinbeck changed, and President Reagan changed his views and decades later helped bring communism to its knees. Maybe it’s time that raisin farmers brought supply management to its knees in California. With a little help form the 9th Circuit. And maybe raisins priced by the market will actually sell better. With no literary puns necessary.