The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case brought by the National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation against California’s Proposition 12. The law bans the sale of pork from hogs born to sows that weren’t raised according to the state’s “arbitrary” production standards. NPPC President Terry Wolters says, “We are extremely pleased that the Supreme Court will consider the constitutionality of Proposition 12.”
NPPC has waged a legal battle against the ballot initiative since it was approved in November 2018, arguing at the U.S. district and appellate court levels that Prop. 12 violates the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, which grants Congress the power to regulate trade among the states and limits the ability of states to regulate commerce outside their borders. The high court is taking up the case on appeal from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which in July upheld a lower court ruling against the NPPC-AFBF lawsuit.
Travis Cushman, AFBF Senior Counsel for Public Policy, says the decision is a significant milestone. “It’s a very exciting decision, it means the Supreme Court is interested in reviewing whether or not what California has done here is constitutional. That’s an incredibly high bar to reach, the Supreme Court takes less than one percent of cases a year that come before it, which means that there are a ton of cases that are very deserving but never had the opportunity. But here, the Supreme Court, at least views that we have reached that bar to decide this important issue.”
Cushman says Prop 12 has far-reaching consequences beyond the pork industry.
“It makes these animal care practices in the hands of voters and not in the hands the folks who actually take care of the animals. That is a very, very unfortunate precedent to have, not just for farmers in the pork industry, but farmers across the country. Even outside of the animal industry, this law says that voters in one state can dictate how something is created. So, that means that California could tell folks you can’t sell products into our state unless you meet our minimum wage requirements for example. So, it has very, very far-reaching implications for folks in every industry.”
Cushman outlines what the timeline for the case may look like. “Next up, we will go through another round of briefing with the Supreme Court, there will also be Amicus opportunities for interested parties to file to court as well. I expect the oral arguments will happen sometime in October, with a decision by either December or early 2023.”