The boat that floated the current San Joaquin Valley pomegranate parade has sprung a leak.

However, don’t expect a Titanic sequel if POM queen Lynda Resnick has anything to say about it.

She has already said plenty. Even before the Federal Trade Commission filed suit against Stewart and Lynda Resnick’s POM Wonderful company for false advertising, the multi-billionaire Resnicks fired a peremptory shot across the government’s bow by filing a lawsuit against the government claiming violations of First and Fifth Amendment principles of free speech.

She also took dead aim at the Food and Drug Administration for challenging the medical benefit claims of pomegranate juice and other POM Wonderful products.

The Cleopatra lookalike, Mrs. Resnick is not one to rile. (Cleopatra reportedly used pomegranate arils as lipstick). Steward and Lynda Resnick have no board of directors or stock market listing to make them wilt before the federal government. They are not expected to wilt as the government ramps up its campaign for greater food label scrutiny relating to nutritional value.

Makers of Rice Krispies and Frosted Mini-Wheats were put in a bowl and told to quit making false claims. Snack makers have come under similar scrutiny. As companies with stockholders and boards, most decided to surrender to orders from the government rather than fight.

POM Wonderful has become the government’s next target. It’s not folding.

This war over pomegranate juice is important to San Joaquin Valley farmers. All the POM Wonderful products’ 2009 sales of $165 million came from Paramount Farms’ 18,000 acres of pomegranates and what they purchased from other farmers. The Resnicks have spent $35 million funding research on the health benefits of pomegranates to bolster the value of the funny-looking fruit; a fruit no one really knew what to do with until the Resnicks came along.

This success has created a big demand for fresh pomegranates and pomegranate products. There are now about 30,000 acres of pomegranates in the Valley, more than double the acreage of 2006. Acreage is expected to continue growing. (For more on pomegranate expansion in the SJV, see Angel Red)

The war of claims, words and lawsuits between the Resnicks and the federal government is making for interesting television and tabloid news fodder. How it will impact the growing consumer demand for pomegranates and SJV acreage is an economically compelling issue. Most of the acreage now planted in the Valley is in very young trees with decades of production ahead.

The research money spent by the Resnicks resulted in 55 published papers extolling the health virtues of pomegranates. Pomegranate has long been validated as an antioxidant. The Resnicks used those studies to carry medical claims much farther than that.

These studies linked pomegranates to:

• Reducing bad cholesterol

• Fighting Alzheimer's

• Preventing skin cancer

• Destroying prostate and breast cancer cells

• Solving erectile dysfunction