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GUTIERREZ v. BUTZ

June 30, 1976

Ramon GUTIERREZ et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Earl L. BUTZ et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: PARKER

 PARKER, District Judge:

 This proceeding presents a challenge to a certain Regulation *fn1" and Instruction *fn2" to the States adopted by the Secretary of Agriculture relating to the administration and implementation of the Food Stamp Program which is carried out under the authority of the Food Stamp Act. *fn3" The Regulation and Instruction in question relate to the procedures prescribed by the Department of Agriculture for the determination of income of households of seasonal farm laborers applying to participate in the Food Stamp Program. The plaintiffs are adult migrant farm workers and several migrant farm laborer organizations concerned with the advancement and protection of the interest of such workers. The defendants are the Secretary of Agriculture and certain officials in the Department responsible for administering the Food Stamp Program.

 The core of the controversy is a Regulation issued by the Secretary which provides:

 
Monthly income means all income which is received or anticipated to be received during the month. 7 C.F.R. § 271.3(c)(1) (emphasis added). *fn4"

 Plaintiffs challenge the Regulation on the theory that the "determination of eligibility and the setting of food stamp purchase levels for farmworker households according to anticipated income rather than income actually available contravenes the statutory mandates of the Food Stamp Act." *fn5"

 A brief analysis of the statutory and regulatory scheme is relevant and instructive.

 The Food Stamp Program was initially established in 1964 and has since been amended. In adopting the Food Stamp Act the Congress announced:

 
It is hereby declared to be the policy of Congress, in order to promote the general welfare, that the Nation's abundance of food should be utilized cooperatively . . . to safeguard the health and well-being of the Nation's population and raise levels of nutrition among low-in-come households. . . . 7 U.S.C. § 2011.

 Under the Act, the Secretary of Agriculture is authorized to develop and administer a program under which, upon the request of a State agency, eligible households within a State are provided "an opportunity to obtain a nutritionally adequate diet through the issuance to them of a coupon allotment" having a greater monetary value than the charge paid for such allotment by an eligible household. § 2013(a). The Secretary is authorized to promulgate regulations for the administration of the program, consistent with the provisions and purposes of the Act. § 2013(c).

 Participation in the program is limited to "households whose income and other financial resources are determined to be substantial limiting factors in permitting them to purchase a nutritionally adequate diet." § 2014(a). Under § 2014(b) the Secretary establishes uniform national standards of participation eligibility by households in the program which at a minimum must prescribe the amounts of household income and other financial resources, including both liquid and nonliquid assets, to be used as criteria of eligibility. State plans must meet the standards of eligibility established by the Secretary. And pursuant to § 2019(b), the certification *fn6" of applicant households and the issuance to them of food coupons is the responsibility of the State agency.

 Procedural History

 Shortly after this proceeding was filed, the defendants moved to dismiss, attacking the plaintiffs' theory and concept of income. Defendants contended that income determination is necessary to ascertain eligibility and that the Regulation and Instruction which require state agencies to use anticipated income rather than income actually available is consistent with the statute. Defendants relied on economic treatises for the proposition that "income" ...


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