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AFBF, NPPC Tell Supreme Court Proposition 12 is Unconstitutional

Ag industry associations say state law unconstitutionally regulates commerce outside of California

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Barbara Barbosa | PEXELS
Barbara Barbosa | PEXELS

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 12.

Prop 12, which took effect January 1, prohibits in California the sale of pork from hogs whose mothers were raised in pens — anywhere in the world — that do not comply with the state’s highly prescriptive housing standards. It applies to any uncooked pork sold in the state, whether produced there or outside its borders. Nearly all pork produced in the U.S. fails to meet California’s standards.

According to the AFBF and NPPC brief, California's law seeks to ban the sale of pork from hogs that don’t meet the state’s arbitrary production standards, even if the pork was raised on farms outside of California.

Violates constitution's Commerce Clause

AFBF and NPPC argue Proposition 12 violates the constitution’s Commerce Clause, which restricts states from regulating commerce outside their borders.

The brief states Proposition 12 “will require massive and costly changes across the entire $26-billion-a-year industry. And it inescapably projects California’s policy choices into every other State, a number of which expressly permit their farmers to house sows in ways inconsistent with Proposition 12.”

“California is attempting to set the rules for the entire country,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall.

“Farmers are dedicated to caring for their animals, but this misguided law inhibits efforts to provide them a safe environment," he continued. "Almost all of the pork consumed in California is produced outside of its borders.

"This law has the potential to devastate small family farms across the nation through unnecessary and expensive renovations, and every family will ultimately pay for the law through higher food prices.”

Prop 12 will have ripple effect

NPPC President Terry Wolters, owner of Stoney Creek Farms in Pipestone, MN, said, farmers’ top priority every day is the health, safety and welfare of the animals in their care.

"California’s Proposition 12 illegally regulates farms across the country and international borders," said Wolters. "It will have ripple effects of jeopardizing the health and safety of the entire U.S. herd, driving many smaller farmers out of business, dramatically increasing costs, and limiting consumer choice of affordable and nutritious pork products.”

NPPC and AFBF assert Proposition 12:

  • Unconstitutionally regulates commerce outside of California
  • Governs activity outside of California’s borders and beyond its police powers
  • Imposes substantial burdens on out-of-state farmers and their customers

Senators urge solicitor general to support Proposition 12

Earlier this month, a group of senators sent a letter to Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar urging her to support California’s Proposition 12 before the Supreme Court.

The letter said, “Proposition 12 only regulates in-state sales of egg, pork, and veal products and does not regulate out-of-state producers, but the NPPC’s argument claims a state law is unconstitutional any time it could indirectly cause businesses to adjust out-of-state operations.

"If adopted, this ruling could allow large, multi-state corporations to evade numerous state laws that focus on harms to their constituents, including those addressing wildlife trafficking, climate change, renewable energy, stolen property trafficking and labor abuses.”

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