The National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation have filed a legal challenge to California's Proposition 12, which imposes animal housing standards that reach outside of California's borders to farms across the United States and beyond.
"Proposition 12 revolves around a set of arbitrary standards that lack any scientific, technical or agricultural basis, and will only serve to inflict further harm on U.S. hog farmers," says Jen Sorenson, NPPC vice president. "California represents approximately 15% of the U.S. pork market, and Proposition 12 will force hog farmers who want to sell pork into the populous state to switch to alternative housing systems, at a significant cost to their business. U.S. pork producers are already fighting to expand market opportunities overseas. We shouldn't have to fight to preserve our domestic market too."
"This law was sold to California voters as a solution to improve animal welfare and food safety, but it has nothing to do with food safety, and many animals will suffer more injury and illness under its arbitrary rules," says AFBF general counsel Ellen Steen. "The best way to protect animal well-being is to allow farmers to make farm-specific and animal-specific decisions on animal care. Prop 12 will deny them that ability while driving up their costs. The hardest hit will be family farms, especially smaller independent farms. That means Prop 12 will also lead to fewer family farms and greater consolidation in the pork industry."
Beginning Jan. 1, 2022, Proposition 12 prohibits the sale of pork not produced according to California's highly prescriptive production standards. The proposition applies to any uncooked pork sold in the state, whether raised there or outside its borders. Currently, less than 1% of U.S. pork production meets Prop 12's requirements. In order to comply with Proposition 12, U.S. hog farmers need to start making investment decisions today to be ready by the implementation date.
The complaint asks the courts to strike Proposition 12 as invalid under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
In October, the North American Meat Institute filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 12. However, a month later a judge with the Central District of California rejected the NAMI request to issue a preliminary injunction against Proposition 12 that establishes additional space requirements for egg-laying hens, gestating sows and veal.
Judge Christina A. Snyder claimed legislative history demonstrated there were health risks from food-borne bacteria derived from confinement. She stated public health reports by the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Production, the World Health Organization and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations support California's rationale. Snyder stated "…that Proposition 12 does not have a discriminatory purpose that would invalidate it per se."
Because of Snyder's "extensive" agricultural experience, she stated Proposition 12 did not impose nor contemplate "differential treatment of in-state and out-of-state economic interests that benefits the former and burdens the latter."
Following the ruling, NAMI spokeswoman Sarah Little stated, "We respect but are disappointed in the court's decision. We will review the ruling and consider our options, which include an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit."