What is the timeline for Massachusetts Question 3?

While Question 3 is similar to Prop 12, the law goes further, not allowing the transshipment of whole pork through the state.

Ann Hess, Content Director

May 31, 2023

2 Min Read
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Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on California’s Proposition 12 earlier this month, questions have surfaced regarding the implementation of Massachusetts Question 3. A 2016 ballot initiative, Question 3, was set to go into effect on Aug. 15, 2022; however before that date, an agreement was reached between the Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General and a coalition led by the National Pork Producers Council, that the law should “be put on hold at least until 30 days after the U.S. Supreme Court issues a ruling” in the Prop 12 lawsuit brought by NPPC and the American Farm Bureau Federation.

According to the Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General, the court now has 30 days to close out the paused Massachusetts case, with the effective enforcement date beginning one month later.

Any petition for rehearing is due to be filed on or before June 5, 2023. If no petition for rehearing is filed, the U.S. District Court will issue its judgment on or about June 12, 2023.

The decision will then be final, triggering a deadline of July 12, 2023 for the stay of pork regulations to end under the terms of the District Court’s order, said the Attorney General Andrea J. Campbell’s office in a statement.

As for enforcement and compliance with Question 3, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources stated the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision is being reviewed and referred to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office for further comment.

The Massachusetts law "prohibits any farm owner or operator from knowingly confining any breeding pig, calf raised for veal, or egg-laying hen in a way that prevents the animal from lying down, standing up, fully extending its limbs, or turning around freely." Exceptions to this confinement rule include temporary holding cells for transportation, fairs, medical research, veterinary exams and other purposes. Prop 12, which passed in 2018, specifically requires pork meat sold in California to come from pigs born to a sow housed in at least a 24-square-foot-pen.

While Question 3 is similar to Prop 12—banning any uncooked whole pork meat sold in the state that does not meet specific sow housing requirements, regardless of where it was produced—Question 3 goes further, not allowing the transshipment of whole pork through the state. According to NPPC, this jeopardizes an estimated $2 billion worth of pork that moves through Massachusetts into neighboring New England states.

California's Prop 12 enforcement will begin on July 2, 2023. Since the definition of sow housing changed 18 months ago, no product or pigs will be "grandfathered in." All product sold in California beginning July 2, 2023 must be from sows housed in a manner compliant with Prop 12.

Dr. Elizabeth Cox, animal care program manager for California Department of Food and Agriculture, said the focus over the next seven months will be getting sellers and suppliers certified per the requirements of the Prop 12 rules. 

About the Author(s)

Ann Hess

Content Director, National Hog Farmer

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