JUSTICE O'CONNOR delivered the opinion of the Court.
This case presents the question whether ultimate consumers of dairy products may obtain judicial review of milk market orders issued by the Secretary of Agriculture (Secretary) under the authority of the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937 (Act), ch. 296, 50 Stat. 246, as amended, 7 U. S. C. § 601 et seq. We conclude that consumers may not obtain judicial review of such orders.
In the early 1900's, dairy farmers engaged in intense competition in the production of fluid milk products. See Zuber v. Allen, 396 U.S. 168, 172-176 (1969). To bring this destabilizing competition under control, the 1937 Act authorizes the Secretary to issue milk market orders setting the minimum prices that handlers (those who process dairy products)
Under the scheme established by Congress, the Secretary must conduct an appropriate rulemaking proceeding before issuing a milk market order. The public must be notified of these proceedings and provided an opportunity for public hearing and comment. See 7 U. S. C. § 608c(3). An order may be issued only if the evidence adduced at the hearing shows "that [it] will tend to effectuate the declared policy of this chapter with respect to such commodity." 7 U. S. C. § 608c(4). Moreover, before any market order may become effective, it must be approved by the handlers of at least 50% of the volume of milk covered by the proposed order and at least two-thirds of the affected dairy producers in the region. 7 U. S. C. §§ 608c(8), 608c(5)(B)(i). If the handlers withhold their consent, the Secretary may nevertheless impose the order. But the Secretary's power to do so is conditioned upon at least two-thirds of the producers consenting to its promulgation and upon his making an administrative determination that the order is "the only practical means of advancing the interests of the producers." 7 U. S. C. § 608c(9)(B).
The Secretary currently has some 45 milk market orders in effect. See 7 CFR pts. 1001-1139 (1984). Each order covers a different region of the country, and collectively they cover most, though not all, of the United States. The orders divide dairy products into separately priced classes based on the uses to which raw milk is put. See 44 Fed. Reg. 65990 (1979). Raw milk that is processed and bottled for fluid consumption is termed "Class I" milk. Raw milk that is used to
For a variety of economic reasons, fluid milk products would command a higher price than surplus milk products in a perfectly functioning market. Accordingly, the Secretary's milk market orders require handlers to pay a higher order price for Class I products than for Class II products. To discourage destabilizing competition among producers for the more desirable fluid milk sales, the orders also require handlers to submit their payments for either class of milk to a regional pool. Administrators of these regional pools are then charged with distributing to dairy farmers a weighted average price for each milk product they have produced, irrespective of its use. See 7 U. S. C. § 608c(5)(B)(ii).
In particular, the Secretary has regulated the price of "reconstituted milk" — that is, milk manufactured by mixing milk powder with water — since 1964. See 29 Fed. Reg. 9002, 9010 (1964); see also 34 Fed. Reg. 16548, 16551 (1969). The Secretary's orders assume that handlers will use reconstituted milk to manufacture surplus milk products. Handlers are therefore required to pay only the lower Class II minimum price. See 44 Fed. Reg. 65989, 65990 (1979). However, handlers are required to make a "compensatory payment" on any portion of the reconstituted milk that their records show has not been used to manufacture surplus milk products. 7 CFR §§ 1012.44(a)(5)(i), 1012.60(e) (1984). The compensatory payment is equal to the difference between the Class I and Class II milk product prices. Handlers make these payments to the regional pool, from which moneys are then distributed to producers of fresh fluid milk in the region where the reconstituted milk was manufactured and sold. § 1012.71(a)(1).
In December 1980, respondents brought suit in District Court, contending that the compensatory payment requirement makes reconstituted milk uneconomical for handlers to process.
The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part, and remanded the case for a decision on the merits. 225 U. S. App. D. C. 387, 698 F.2d 1239 (1983). The Court of Appeals agreed that the milk handler and the nonprofit organization had been properly dismissed by the District Court. But the court concluded that the individual consumers had standing: they had suffered an injury-in-fact,
We granted certiorari to resolve the conflict in the Circuits. 464 U.S. 991 (1983). We now reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals in this case.
Respondents filed this suit under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U. S. C. § 701 et seq. The APA confers a general cause of action upon persons "adversely affected or aggrieved by agency action within the meaning of a relevant statute," 5 U. S. C. § 702, but withdraws that cause of action to the extent the relevant statute "preclude[s] judicial review," 5 U. S. C. § 701(a)(1). Whether and to what extent a particular statute precludes judicial review is determined not only from its express language, but also from the structure of the statutory scheme, its objectives, its legislative history, and the nature of the administrative action involved. See Southern R. Co. v. Seaboard Allied Mining Corp., 442 U.S. 444, 454-463 (1979); Morris v. Gressette, 432 U.S. 491, 499-507 (1977); see generally Note, Statutory Preclusion of Judicial Review Under the Administrative Procedure Act, 1976 Duke L. J. 431, 442-449. Therefore, we must examine this statutory scheme "to determine whether Congress precluded all judicial review, and, if not, whether Congress nevertheless foreclosed review to the class to which the [respondents]
It is clear that Congress did not intend to strip the judiciary of all authority to review the Secretary's milk market orders. The Act's predecessor, the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933, 48 Stat. 31, contained no provision relating to administrative or judicial review. In 1935, however, Congress added a mechanism by which dairy handlers could obtain review of the Secretary's market orders. 49 Stat. 760. That mechanism was retained in the 1937 legislation and remains in the Act as § 608c(15) today. Section 608c(15) requires handlers first to exhaust the administrative remedies made available by the Secretary. 7 U. S. C. § 608c(15)(A); see 7 CFR §§ 900.50-900.71 (1984). After these formal administrative remedies have been exhausted, handlers may obtain judicial review of the Secretary's ruling in the federal district court in any district "in which [they are] inhabitant[s], or ha[ve their] principal place[s] of business." 7 U. S. C. § 608c(15)(B). These provisions for handler-initiated review make evident Congress' desire that some persons be able to obtain judicial review of the Secretary's market orders.
The remainder of the statutory scheme, however, makes equally clear Congress' intention to limit the classes entitled to participate in the development of market orders. The Act contemplates a cooperative venture among the Secretary, handlers, and producers the principal purposes of which are to raise the price of agricultural products and to establish an orderly system for marketing them. Handlers and producers — but not consumers — are entitled to participate in the adoption and retention of market orders. 7 U. S. C. §§ 608c(8), (9), (16)(B). The Act provides for agreements among the Secretary, producers, and handlers, 7 U. S. C. § 608(2), for hearings among them, §§ 608(5), 608c(3), and for votes by producers and handlers, §§ 608c(8)(A), (9)(B), (12),
To be sure, the general purpose sections of the Act allude to general consumer interests. See 7 U. S. C. §§ 602(2), (4). But the preclusion issue does not only turn on whether the interests of a particular class like consumers are implicated. Rather, the preclusion issue turns ultimately on whether Congress intended for that class to be relied upon to challenge agency disregard of the law. See Barlow v. Collins, supra, at 167. The structure of this Act indicates that Congress intended only producers and handlers, and not consumers, to ensure that the statutory objectives would be realized.
Respondents would have us believe that, while Congress unequivocally directed handlers first to complain to the Secretary that the prices set by milk market orders are too high, it was nevertheless the legislative judgment that the same challenge, if advanced by consumers, does not require initial administrative scrutiny. There is no basis for attributing to Congress the intent to draw such a distinction. The regulation of agricultural products is a complex, technical undertaking. Congress channelled disputes concerning marketing orders to the Secretary in the first instance because it believed that only he has the expertise necessary to illuminate and resolve questions about them. Had Congress intended to allow consumers to attack provisions of marketing orders, it surely would have required them to pursue the administrative remedies provided in § 608c(15)(A) as well. The restriction of the administrative remedy to handlers strongly suggests that Congress intended a similar restriction of judicial review of market orders.
The Court of Appeals viewed the preclusion issue from a somewhat different perspective. First, it recited the presumption in favor of judicial review of administrative action that this Court usually employs. It then noted that the Act has been interpreted to authorize producer challenges to the administration of market order settlement funds, see Stark v. Wickard, 321 U.S. 288 (1944), and that no legislative history or statutory language directly and specifically supported the preclusion of consumer suits. In these circumstances, the Court of Appeals reasoned that the Act could not fairly be
The presumption favoring judicial review of administrative action is just that — a presumption. This presumption, like all presumptions used in interpreting statutes, may be overcome by specific language or specific legislative history that is a reliable indicator of congressional intent. See, e. g., Southern R. Co. v. Seaboard Allied Milling Corp., 442 U. S., at 454-463; Schilling v. Rogers, 363 U.S. 666, 670-677 (1960). The congressional intent necessary to overcome the presumption may also be inferred from contemporaneous judicial construction barring review and the congressional acquiescence in it, see, e. g., Ludecke v. Watkins, 335 U.S. 160 (1948), or from the collective import of legislative and judicial history behind a particular statute, see e. g., Heikkila v. Barber, 345 U.S. 229 (1953). More important for purposes of this case, the presumption favoring judicial review of administrative action may be overcome by inferences of intent drawn from the statutory scheme as a whole. See, e. g., Morris v. Gressette, 432 U.S. 491 (1977); Switchmen v. National Mediation Board, 320 U.S. 297 (1943). In particular, at least when a statute provides a detailed mechanism for judicial consideration of particular issues at the behest of particular persons, judicial review of those issues at the behest of other persons may be found to be impliedly precluded. See Barlow v. Collins, 397 U. S., at 168, and n. 2, 175, and n. 9 (opinion of BRENNAN, J.); Switchmen v. National Mediation Board, supra, at 300-301; cf. Associated General Contractors of California, Inc. v. Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 542 (1983).
A case that best illustrates the relevance of a statute's structure to the Court's preclusion analysis is Morris v. Gressette, supra. In that case, the Court held that the Attorney General's failure to object to a change in voting
In this case, the Court of Appeals did not take the balanced approach to statutory construction reflected in the Morris opinion. Rather, it recited this Court's oft-quoted statement that "only upon a showing of `clear and convincing evidence' of a contrary legislative intent should the courts restrict access to judicial review." Abbott Laboratories v. Gardner, 387 U.S. 136, 141 (1967). See also Southern R. Co. v. Seaboard Allied Milling Corp., supra, at 462; Dunlop v. Bachowski, 421 U.S. 560, 568 (1975). According to the Court of Appeals, the "clear and convincing evidence" standard required it to find unambiguous proof, in the traditional evidentiary sense, of a congressional intent to preclude judicial review at the consumers' behest. Since direct statutory language or legislative history on this issue could not be found, the Court of Appeals found the presumption favoring judicial review to be controlling.
This Court has, however, never applied the "clear and convincing evidence" standard in the strict evidentiary sense the
It is true, as the Court of Appeals also noted, that this Court determined, in Stark v. Wickard, 321 U.S. 288 (1944), that dairy producers could challenge certain administrative actions even though the Act did not expressly provide them a right to judicial review. The producers challenged certain deductions the Secretary had made from the "producer settlement fund" established in connection with the milk market order in effect at the time. "[T]he challenged deduction[s] reduce[d] pro tanto the amount actually received by the producers for their milk." Id., at 302. These deductions injured what the producers alleged were "definite personal rights" that were "not possessed by the people generally," id., at 304, 309, and gave the producers standing to object to the administration of the settlement fund. See id., at 306. Though the producers' standing could not by itself ensure judicial review of the Secretary's action at their behest, see ibid., the statutory scheme as a whole, the Court concluded, implicitly authorized producers' suits concerning settlement fund administration. See id., at 309-310. "[H]andlers [could not] question the use of the fund, because handlers had
By contrast, preclusion of consumer suits will not threaten realization of the fundamental objectives of the statute. Handlers have interests similar to those of consumers. Handlers, like consumers, are interested in obtaining reliable supplies of milk at the cheapest possible prices. See Zuber v. Allen, 396 U. S., at 190. Handlers can therefore be expected to challenge unlawful agency action and to ensure that the statute's objectives will not be frustrated.
The structure of this Act implies that Congress intended to preclude consumer challenges to the Secretary's market orders. Preclusion of such suits does not pose any threat to
It is so ordered.
JUSTICE STEVENS took no part in the decision of this case.