MR. JUSTICE REED delivered the opinion of the Court.
This record presents for review the action of a specially constituted district court in enjoining, on final hearing, the Commissioner of Agriculture of the State of Florida and his agents from enforcing against the United States the provisions of the Florida Commercial Fertilizer Law. Judicial Code, §§ 266 and 238.
By this Florida act the sale or distribution of commercial fertilizer is comprehensively regulated. There is included a requirement of a label or stamp on each bag evidencing the payment of an inspection fee. Unless so identified, the bags may be seized and sold by the sheriff of the county. The purpose of the legislation is to assure the consumers that they will obtain the quality of fertilizer for which they pay and that substances deleterious to the land will be excluded from the material sold. Florida Statutes, 1941, c. 576.
The United States, under the direction of the Secretary of Agriculture, acting under the provisions of the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act,
The soil-building and soil-conserving practices, when carried out by a participating farmer, entitle him to a grant or benefit payment. § 8. In order that the farmer may earn this grant, phosphate fertilizers are furnished to him in advance by the Government through the county committee. The cost is deducted from the grant. For the purpose of carrying out the program, the United States caused fertilizers purchased by its agents to be shipped into Florida to the local agricultural associations for such distribution. As the sacks were without stamps, the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture on September 10, 1942, gave a "stop sale" notice to the county agricultural association to cease distribution.
The Attorney General of the United States directed the filing of a complaint against the Florida officials who are charged with the enforcement of the Florida law. The complaint set out the "stop sale" notice, the refusal of numerous persons utilized by the United States in its work to proceed with the distribution of the fertilizer without the protection of an injunction, the frustration of the conservation program of the Secretary of Agriculture, the imminency of irreparable damage because of the necessity of prompt distribution of the fertilizer and the lack of any efficient remedy other than a temporary and permanent injunction. Florida objected to the complaint for failure to state a cause of action and set up numerous defenses
The District Court disposed, we think, of the conduit or service agent argument by its finding that the Government "became the owner" of the fertilizer at the manufacturing plants which are outside the state and was engaged in distributing it in Florida as a part of the national soil conservation program. In promoting soil conservation by precept and demonstration through the Department of Agriculture, the United States, as in its other authorized activities, acts in a governmental capacity.
The other findings are substantially in accord with the allegations of the complaint and are not contested. The District Court, one judge dissenting, enjoined the application of Florida law to the above described acts of the United States on the ground of federal immunity from state regulation.
Since the United States is a government of delegated powers, none of which may be exercised throughout the Nation by any one state, it is necessary for uniformity that the laws of the United States be dominant over those of any state. Such dominancy is required also to avoid a breakdown of administration through possible conflicts arising from inconsistent requirements. The supremacy clause of the Constitution states this essential principle. Article VI. A corollary to this principle is that the activities of the Federal Government are free from regulation by any state.
Appellants' argument in support of the inspection fee is that neither the Constitution nor any federal statute exempts the United States from paying reasonable state inspection fees to support permissible regulation of commercial fertilizer. Such inspections are allowable where the United States is not the owner. Patapsco Guano Co. v. North Carolina, 171 U.S. 345; Red "C" Oil Co. v. North Carolina, 222 U.S. 380, 392. Appellants urge that since they are allowable to protect the farmers against the imposition of fertilizers of quality possibly inferior to the manufacturers' representations, the inspection fee should
It lies within Congressional power to authorize regulation, including taxation, by the state of federal instrumentalities.
These inspection fees are laid directly upon the United States. They are money exactions the payment of which, if they are enforceable, would be required before executing a function of government. Such a requirement is prohibited by the supremacy clause. We are not dealing as in Graves v. New York ex rel. O'Keefe, supra, with a tax upon the salary of an employee, or as in Alabama v. King & Boozer, 314 U.S. 1, with a tax upon the purchases of a supplier, or as in Penn Dairies v. Milk Control Comm'n, 318 U.S. 261, with price control exercised over a contractor with the United States. In these cases the exactions directly affected persons who were acting for themselves and not for the United States. These fees are like a tax upon the right to carry on the business of the post office or upon the privilege of selling United States bonds through federal officials. Admittedly the state inspection service is to protect consumers from fraud but in carrying out such protection, the federal function must be left free.
MR. JUSTICE BLACK concurs in the result.