"Zero," said Schulz. "They received the value of our investment." A recent study showed that raisin advertising brought in nearly $10 in revenue for every dollar spent; however, U.S. raisin consumption has declined since 2004.
In 2002, Horne decided he wouldn't give those people his raisins anymore.
"The hell with the whole mess," he says now. "It's like being a serf."
That year, Horne sold all of his raisins. He refused to save any for the reserve. And, pretty soon, he had trouble sitting right across the street.
"We probably worked that case for a couple of months," said Rocky Pipkin, who runs the leading private-detective agency in California farm country. His people do undercover work inside nut factories. Stakeouts to catch bull rustlers.
In this case, they staked out fruit. They had been hired to videotape Horne, to gather evidence that he was breaking the law. "We wanted to try to record .<!p>.<!p>. the raisins coming in, or the raisins going out," Pipkin said.
The investigation finished. After a while, Horne got a list of the charges against him.
"The respondents violated section 989.66 of the Order," it said, in part. "By failing to hold in reserve .<!p>.<!p>. approximately 24.7 tons of Natural Sun-dried Seedless raisins." There were 12 charges in all.
Horne needed a lawyer.
He eventually found the man who had pulled off the greatest coup in the recent history of California farm litigation. The man who beat the California Dancing Raisins.
"We killed that program," Brian Leighton said, still satisfied 19 years later. The California Raisins were Claymation figures -- raisins with arms, legs and sunglasses -- who sang "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" in a series of stop-motion TV commercials in the late 1980s and early 1990s. For a brief time, they were huge. Music albums. Lunchboxes. A Christmas special.
But the whole thing was funded by a government levy on raisin farmers and processors. Leighton led a rebellion, and in 1994, the Raisins lost their funding. "The problem was, it wasn't selling any raisins," he said. "They sold merchandise."
In Horne's case, Leighton argued that the raisin reserve was flatly unconstitutional. The Fifth Amendment says that private property may not be taken without just compensation. This, he believed, was not that. "It's basically theft," Leighton said.
Horne tried that argument on an Agriculture Department hearing officer. He lost.
He appealed that decision. He lost. He appealed to a U.S. district court judge. And lost. "The Government does not force plaintiffs to grow raisins," the court ruled. "If they grow and market raisins, then contributing to the reserve] .<!p>.<!p>. is the admissions ticket."
Then he appealed the federal district court's decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
Finally, the case reached the U.S. Supreme Court. And things changed. The justices seemed sympathetic to Horne. And mystified by the whole idea of the raisin reserve.
"What it does is it takes raisins that we grow -- in effect, throws them in the river," Justice Stephen G. Breyer said, puzzling it out. Later, he said, "I can't believe that Congress wanted the taxpayers to pay for a program that's going to mean they have to pay higher prices" for raisins.
The court's ruling, however, didn't settle the question of whether Horne is right about the law being unconstitutional. Instead, it told the 9th Circuit to settle that question now (the lower court had rejected Horne's case, saying that a quirk of the raisin law meant it did not have jurisdiction).
So now Horne will have to wait to find out whether the courts see him as a conscientious objector to a bad law. Or as a guy who owes the government enough raisins to fill 3.8 million boxes of Raisin Bran.
"If we lose, we're bankrupt. We won't have a pot to p--- in," Horne said. He thinks he would be liable for about $3 million, including fines and the cash value of those raisins. "No. I don't want to even think about it. Would you?"
In the meantime, his case has divided the world of raisin growers. At least a few dozen are hard-core supporters, contributing 2 cents per pound of raisins to Horne's legal defense fund.
But he is also hated, by the people who followed the rules and handed over their raisins when the government asked.
"I lost a lot of my land, following the rules," said Eddie Wayne Albrecht, a raisin grower in nearby Del Rey, Calif. He handed over 47 percent of his crop to the reserve in 2003. And 30 percent in 2004. He lost so much money that his holdings shrank from 1,700 acres to 100.
"He got 100 percent, while I was getting 53 percent," Albrecht said. "The criminal is winning right now."
Through it all, the raisin reserve lives. In legal terms, it is close to immortal.
The Agriculture Department has the power to abolish it. But it hasn't. And if a farmer wants to abolish it, he'll have a hard time. There is no provision in Marketing Order 989 for today's raisin growers to go around the committee and vote out the program that 1949's growers voted in.
But Horne has still won a kind of victory. For the past three years, the Agriculture Department and the Raisin Administrative Committee have agreed that no new raisins should be put into the reserve.
Will the reserve really never be used again?
"Never," said Schulz, the keeper of the raisin reserve, "is an awfully long time."