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Massachusetts takes step toward delaying Question 3

National Pork Board Nursing piglets
Prop. 12-type initiative delayed until Jan 1., 2023.

Last week, the Massachusetts House voted by an overwhelming margin of 156-1 to delay until Jan. 1, 2023 a provision of the Question 3 initiative that will prohibit the sale of pork that does not meet the state’s production standards.

The move was championed by National Pork Producers Council, which aggressively has been seeking relief for pork producers and the pork supply chain.

According to NPPC, the House also transferred jurisdiction for drafting regulations from the state’s Attorney General to the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture. The measure, NPPC said, is expected to easily pass the state Senate this week before heading to Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker for signing.

Originally set to take effect Jan. 1, 2022, NPPC said the voter-approved 2016 ballot initiative – similar to California’s Proposition 12 – bans the sale of pork from hogs born to sows housed in pens that don’t comply with Massachusetts’ new standards. It applies to any uncooked pork sold in the state, whether it’s produced there or outside its borders.

“Nearly all pork currently produced in the United States fails to meet Massachusetts’ arbitrary standards,” explained NPPC. “Like California’s 2018 ballot initiative, Question 3’s supporters claimed it would improve animal welfare and food safety. But the measure’s requirements will have no effect on either and may negatively affect both, according to numerous studies on animal housing.”

Groups petition Supreme Court again

In late July, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against NPPC and the American Farm Bureau Federation in their challenge to California’s Prop. 12. However, the groups again petitioned in late September the Supreme Court to take their case.

The appeal to the high court comes after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in July upheld a lower court ruling against the NPPC-AFBF case. The appeals court found despite the organizations plausibly alleging that Prop. 12 “will have dramatic upstream effects and require pervasive changes to the pork industry nationwide,” 9th Circuit precedent won’t allow the case to continue. That precedent, however, runs counter to numerous Supreme Court decisions and is in conflict with nearly every other federal circuit court.

“We’re asking the Supreme Court to consider the constitutionality of one state imposing regulations that reach far outside its borders and stifle interstate and international commerce,” said NPPC President Jen Sorenson. “In this case, arbitrary animal housing standards that lack any scientific, technical or agricultural basis and that will only inflict harm on U.S. hog farmers.”


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