Prop 12 prevails in court, but future challenges remain

Legislative Watch: Prop 12 may raise other constitutional questions; Biden talks farm bill with ag committee; Subcommittee hearing emphasizes need for trade.

Eric Bohl

May 12, 2023

3 Min Read
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The United States Supreme Court ruled against the National Pork Producers Council and American Farm Bureau Federation in a case challenging California's Proposition 12 rules governing pork production. The 5-4 decision in National Pork Producers Council v. Ross was written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, who said, "While the Constitution addresses many weighty issues, the type of pork chops California merchants may sell is not on that list."

Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote a partial dissent that many see laying out a potential roadmap for future challenges to laws like Proposition 12. In it, he said, "Although the Court today rejects the plaintiffs' dormant Commerce Clause challenge as insufficiently pled, state laws like Proposition 12 implicate not only the Commerce Clause, but also potentially several other constitutional provisions, including the Import-Export Clause, the Privileges and Immunities Clause, and the Full Faith and Credit Clause. … [I]t will be important in future cases to consider that state laws like Proposition 12 also may raise substantial constitutional questions" under these clauses. Animal rights groups have pledged to pursue more ballot measures like Proposition 12 in additional states, potentially teeing up future challenges on different legal grounds.

In response to the ruling, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn "GT" Thompson (R-PA) said, "I certainly respect the authority of the individual States and I appreciate the Supreme Court's instinct to exercise caution when adjudicating conflicting state interests. That said, I am disappointed in today's decision on California's Proposition 12. U.S. producers simply cannot operate in a system where one state can dictate production standards for the entire country. I will continue to review today's decision and explore solutions that ensure the hardworking farmers and ranchers who put the food on the tables of the American people can do so without being unduly burdened by excessive regulation."

Biden talks with ag committee leaders regarding the farm bill
On Thursday, President Biden organized a farm bill discussion at the White House with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn "GT" Thompson (R-PA) and Ranking Member David Scott (D-GA), and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Ranking Member John Boozman (R-AR). In an interview after the meeting, Senator Boozman told Agri-Pulse the discussion was "very, very cordial but somewhat general in nature."

Following the meeting, the four Congressional leaders issued this joint statement: "Today, the four leaders of the Agriculture Committees had a conversation with President Biden and Secretary Vilsack on the importance of passing a bipartisan farm bill this year. The farm bill is a jobs bill. It is a safety net for farmers and consumers, and it is an investment in our rural communities and the health of the American people. The Agriculture Committees have a long tradition of bipartisan cooperation, and we look forward to continuing that tradition through our work on the 2023 Farm Bill."

The current farm bill expires on Sept. 30. Both Congressional Agriculture Committees continue to hold hearings and discuss the outlines of the next bill.

House subcommittee hearing emphasizes need for trade
The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, Foreign Agriculture and Horticulture held a hearing Thursday focusing on the importance of global agricultural trade to the American farmer. Witnesses emphasized the value of USDA's Foreign Market Development program and Market Access Program. Funding for the programs has not increased since the mid-2000s, despite inflation and the growth of export markets.

In his opening statement, Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Brad Finstad (R-MN) said, "It's imperative that the trade programs in Title III work efficiently and effectively and can be fully utilized by our producers. So as we continue to gather information from stakeholders ahead of the next farm bill, we need to have a clear picture of the trading economy, our producers are engaged with day in and day out."

Witnesses pointed to the large return on investment taxpayers gain from the FMD and MAP programs. Gregg Doud, the former chief agriculture negotiator under the Trump administration, said, "If every dollar you spend, you're getting $25 back in terms of more exports, I think that's a pretty good place to spend some money."

About the Author(s)

Eric Bohl

Eric Bohl is an agricultural policy leader with extensive experience on Capitol Hill. He served six years as Chief of Staff to Congressman Jason Smith (R-MO) and Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), and previously served as Legislative Director to Rep. Hartzler. During that time, he led her work on the House Agriculture Committee and was influential in efforts to craft the 2014 Farm Bill, as well as handling environmental, energy, transportation and infrastructure, and agricultural trade issues.

Eric’s experience starts at the ground level. His family has deep roots in both animal and row-crop farming going back several generations. This understanding of the unique challenges real farmers face brings valuable perspective to help solve clients’ needs. His midwestern values also allow him to build meaningful relationships with people on both sides of the political aisle and find common-sense solutions that transcend partisan lines.

This approach has continued to be the cornerstone of Eric’s career in grassroots advocacy. He served more than five years as Director of Public Affairs and Advocacy for Missouri Farm Bureau. He was a senior member of the organization’s legislative team and led communications and coalition advocacy efforts, including on the 2018 Farm Bill. His writings on agriculture and rural policy have been published in newspapers across the nation. He serves as First Vice President of the St. Louis Agribusiness Club and is a board member of the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City, two of the nation’s largest and strongest organizations supporting agribusinesses.

Before his career in public policy, Eric was a practicing attorney for nearly five years, focusing on real estate and agricultural law, commercial transactions, and commercial litigation. Eric earned undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Missouri, graduating from both programs with honors, and served as the Managing Editor of the Missouri Law Review.

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