Asgrow Seed Co. v. Winterboer, 513 U.S. 179, 11 (1995)

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Cite as: 513 U. S. 179 (1995)

Opinion of the Court

"saved seed"—not merely regular uncleaned crop that is stored for later market sale or use as fodder.

There are two ways to read the provision, depending upon which words the phrase "for sale as provided in this section" is taken to modify. It can be read "production of a crop . . . for sale as provided in this section"; or alternatively "use such saved seed . . . for sale as provided in this section." The parallelism created by the phrase "for use on his farm" followed immediately by "or for sale as provided in this section" suggests the former reading. But the placement of the comma, separating "use [of] such saved seed in the production of a crop for use on his farm," from "or for sale," favors the latter reading. So does the fact that the alternative reading requires the reader to skip the lengthy "Provided, That" clause in order to find out what sales are "provided [for] in this section"—despite the parallelism between "provided" and "Provided," and despite the presence of a colon, which ordinarily indicates specification of what has preceded. It is surely easier to think that at least some of the sales "provided for" are those that are "Provided" after the colon. (It is, of course, not unusual, however deplorable it may be, for "Provided, That" to be used as prologue to an addition rather than an exception. See Springer v. Philippine Islands, 277 U. S. 189, 206 (1928); 1A N. Singer, Sutherland on Statutory Construction 20.22 (5th ed. 1992).)

We think the latter reading is also to be preferred because it lends greater meaning to all the provisions. Under the former reading ("production of a crop . . . for sale as provided in this section"), the only later text that could be referred to is the provision for "bona fide sale[s] for other than reproductive purposes" set out in the second sentence of 2543—the so-called "crop exemption." (The proviso could not be referred to, since it does not provide for sale of crops grown from saved seed, but only for sale of saved seed itself.) But if the "or for sale" provision has such a limited referent, the opening clause's ("Except to the extent that . . .") reservation


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