Lever Food Control Act

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The Lever Food Control Act of 1917 authorized the president to regulate the price, production, transportation, and allocation of feeds, food, fuel, beverages, and distilled spirits for the remainder of World War I (19141918). Popularly known as the Lever Act, the law also empowered the president to nationalize certain private factories, and requisition storage facilities for military supplies. Private individuals and proprietors were entitled to be compensated for the fair market value of any property taken by the federal government pursuant to the act. U.S. District Courts were vested with jurisdiction to resolve disputes when agreement on fair market value could not be reached. The president delegated his regulatory powers to the federal Fuel Administrator, who carried out day-to-day operations with the help of regional agents he appointed around the country. Although the Lever Act granted the president extraordinary and sweeping powers, the law was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in Highland v. Russell Car & Snow Plow Company (1929). Stressing that the freedom to enter contracts and own property should not be impaired lightly, the Supreme Court nevertheless concluded that the regulatory powers granted by the Lever Act were necessary for successful prosecution of the war. In passing the Lever Act Congress had similarly declared that the food and fuel industries are affected with a public interest essential to the nation's common defense. By its terms the Lever Act became ineffective at the war's end. However, a number of sections were re-enacted on October 22, 1919.

See also: Council of National Defense, World War I

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Lever Food Control Act

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