The Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a case by the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Pork Producers Council challenging the constitutionality of a California animal welfare law.
AFBF and NPPC asked the Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling that threw out their lawsuit against a California 2018 ballot initiative banning pork, veal and eggs from animals not raised by California’s minimum space standards.
Arguing for the groups, attorney Timothy Bishop; “Proposition 12 violates the Commerce clause, almost per se, because it’s an extraterritorial regulation that conditions pork sales on out-of-state farmers adopting California’s preferred farming methods, no other state makes farmers house pigs the way California does.”
Increasing costs for pig farmers, nearly all located outside California. Biden Deputy Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler; “Proposition 12 imposes a trade barrier, based on conduct beyond California’s borders. It fails to respect the autonomy of California’s sister states. It invites conflict and retaliation, and threatens the Balkanization of the national economic union.”
But from California Solicitor General Michael Mongen; “California voters chose to pay higher prices to serve their local interest, in refusing to provide a market for products they viewed as morally objectionable and potentially unsafe. The Commerce Clause does not prohibit that choice.”
A question the Justices probed for two-hours, exploring ways California could escape or not, the Commerce Clause that gives Congress sole authority to regulate interstate commerce.
Led by Illinois, 14 mainly Democratic-led States plus DC argued in briefs, overturning California’s law would undermine state legislative authority. 20 GOP-led states argued upholding Prop 12 would undermine state sovereignty.
The Humane Society, a party in the case and leader of Prop 12, argued there’s a long history of state laws to protect public health and animal welfare.