Filburn's Legacy

51 Pages Posted: 8 May 2006

See all articles by James Ming Chen

James Ming Chen

Michigan State University - College of Law


Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942), represented a pivotal moment in the Supreme Court's effort to determine the scope of Congress's power "[t]o regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes." Together with NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 301 U.S. 1 (1937), and United States v. Darby, 312 U.S. 100 (1941), Filburn is widely thought to have marked a turning point in commerce clause jurisprudence. Under Chief Justice William Rehnquist, the Supreme Court severely undermined what had been regarded as the post-New Deal consensus on the scope of Congress's commerce power. This reconsideration of commerce clause doctrine warrants careful reexamination of Wickard v. Filburn.

This article tells the story of Wickard v. Filburn. After providing a brief survey of American agriculture and its regulation between the World Wars, this article describes the specific controversy over Roscoe Filburn's 1941 wheat crop. In its own time, Wickard v. Filburn represented merely one component of the New Deal Court's commerce clause jurisprudence. Greater turmoil over the commerce clause at the turn of the twenty-first century has breathed new life into Filburn. This article therefore examines not only what Filburn meant at the time of its decision, but also what it represents in our time.

Keywords: Filburn, Wickard, agriculture, New Deal, Great Depression, Agricultural Adjustment Act, USDA, AAA, commerce clause, interstate commerce, aggregation, wheat, price support, supply control, family farms

JEL Classification: D41, K23, O13, Q12, Q18

Suggested Citation

Chen, James Ming, Filburn's Legacy. Emory Law Journal, Vol. 52, p. 1719, 2003, Minnesota Legal Studies Research Paper No. 06-24, Available at SSRN:

James Ming Chen (Contact Author)

Michigan State University - College of Law ( email )

318 Law College Building
East Lansing, MI 48824-1300
United States

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