Brownfield Ag News | SCOTUS Rejects Challenge of California’s Prop 12

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The US Supreme Court has announced its decision to uphold California’s Proposition 12, the ballot initiative that requires pork sold in the state to be raised under strict guidelines. Approved by California voters in 2018, the measure bans sales of pork, veal, and eggs from animals whose confinement does not meet minimum space requirements.

The justices rejected the National Pork Producers Council’s argument that the measure violates the Commerce Clause.  NPPC and the American Farm Bureau Federation argued that the state measure sets unrealistic requirements for pork production and forces a change to industry standards nationwide. 

NPPC president Scott Hays, a pork producer from Missouri says the organization is 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,”  he says. Hays says NPPC is still evaluating the Court’s full opinion to understand all the implications. The organization says it will continue to fight for the nation’s pork farmers and American families against misguided regulations. 

Farm Action says the decision is a win for family farmers over meatpackers. President and Missouri hog farmer Joe Maxwell says Proposition 12 is a lifeline for farmers working to feed their communities and stay in business. 

Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) says the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold California’s Proposition 12 makes clear that preventing animal cruelty and protecting public health are core functions of state governments.  Block also says HSUS will not stop fighting until the pork industry ends its cruel, reckless practice of confining mother pigs in cages so small they can’t even turn around.

While California accounts for roughly 15 percent of US pork consumption, it produces less than 2 percent of its own pork needs, according to Christine McCracken at Rabobank. 

Justice Neil Gorsuch authored the court’s ruling. The Supreme Court heard arguments in October 2022 after the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a judge’s decision to throw out the challenge from the U.S. pork industry.