Ag News

Supreme Court upholds California law on animal agriculture

by Compiled by Jay Stone

Posted on May 25, 2023 at 0:00 AM

On May 11, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling upholding California’s Proposition 12, a law mandating animal housing standards for pork, table eggs and veal sold in that state.

In the case, National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) vs. Ross, the NPPC and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) challenged the law, which imposes California’s standard on other states where pork is produced.

“AFBF is disappointed in the closely divided Supreme Court ruling on California’s Proposition 12,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said. “At the heart of this argument is whether one state can set the rules for the entire country. The arbitrary standards take away flexibility to ensure hogs are raised in a safe environment. Prop 12 will cause further consolidation in agriculture nationwide and lead to higher pork prices at the grocery store for America’s families. This law will ultimately harm consumers, farmers and animals.”

NPPC and AFBF had asked the court to strike Proposition 12 as invalid under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“We are very disappointed with the Supreme Court’s opinion. Allowing state overreach will increase prices for consumers and drive small farms out of business, leading to more consolidation. We are still evaluating the Court’s full opinion to understand all the implications,” said NPPC President Scott Hays. “NPPC will continue to fight for our nation’s pork farmers and American families against misguided regulations.”

NPPC maintained that the law lacked any scientific basis. Proposition 12 prohibits the sale of pork not produced according to California’s production standards that requires at least 24 square feet of space per breeding pig. The California law does allow sows to be housed in stalls that are smaller for up to six hours in a 24-hour period during breeding. Pork producers have explained that sows can get moody and aggressive when they are ready to be bred, which is why many producers house breeding sows in individual breeding stalls for up to a week. 

The proposition applies to any uncooked pork sold in the state, whether raised there or outside its borders. At the time AFBF and the NPPC filed suit, less than 1% of U.S. pork production met Prop 12’s requirements, and the state accounted for 15% of the U.S. pork market.

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