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More Reaction to Supreme Court Decision on Prop 12

The NAFB News Service and more has contributed to our follow-up coverage on Prop 12. You can read our original story here:

(WASHINGTON D.C.) — The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a challenge to California’s Prop 12. The law bans the sale of pork from pigs that are kept in tightly confined spaces. The justices voted 5-4 to uphold a lower court’s decision to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau that sought to invalidate the law. The groups argued that the measure violated a U.S. constitutional provision called the Commerce Clause that courts say gives the federal government the power to regulate interstate commerce, not the states themselves.

“While the Constitution addresses many weighty issues, the type of pork chops California merchants may sell is not on that list,” wrote conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch, who authored the Court’s main opinion.

The Prop 12 measure was approved by California voters in 2018. It bans in-state sales of pork, veal, and eggs from animals whose confinements didn’t meet space requirements.

The National Pork Producers Council reacted negatively to the Supreme Court’s decision on California’s Prop 12. “We are very disappointed with the Supreme Court’s opinion,” says Scott Hays, NPPC president. “Allowing state overreach will increase prices for consumers and drive small farms out of business, leading to more consolidation.” NPPC is still evaluating the Court’s full opinion to fully understand all the implications. “We will continue fighting for our pork farmers and American families against misguided regulations,” Hays adds.

Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the U.S., says she’s “delighted” that the Supreme Court upheld California’s Prop 12. “It’s the nation’s strongest farm animal welfare law, and the Court made clear that preventing animal cruelty and protecting public health are core functions of our state governments,” she says. Also, HS-USA “won’t stop fighting until the pork industry stops confining sows in cages so small they can’t turn around.”

House Ag Chair Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) shared his reaction to the news; “I certainly respect the authority of the individual States and I appreciate the Supreme Court’s instinct to exercise caution when adjudicating conflicting state interests. That said, I am disappointed in today’s decision on California’s Proposition 12. U.S producers simply cannot operate in a system where one state can dictate production standards for the entire country,” said Chairman Thompson. “I will continue to review today’s decision and explore solutions that ensure the hardworking farmers and ranchers who put the food on the tables of the American people can do so without being unduly burdened by excessive regulation.”

Also, Chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry, Tracey Mann (R-KS), shared the following statement; “States have the right to govern affairs within their borders, but today’s ruling is a gross misstep by the Supreme Court as it not only threatens the livelihoods of American hog farmers, but also sets a terrible precedent for interstate commerce,” said Rep. Mann.“This decision opens the door to unthinkable, unscientific regulatory overreach against all producers. Today it’s the pig pen, tomorrow it’s the whole barnyard.”

AJ Albrecht, Mercy For Animals’ managing director for the United States and Canada, released the following statement after the news of the Supreme Court ruling.
“Mercy For Animals is overjoyed that the Supreme Court has affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of Big Agriculture’s lawsuit. The outcome of this case supports the will of California voters and rejects the industry’s baseless arguments against Proposition 12. Today we celebrate that in the near future, countless pigs, calves, and hens will no longer needlessly suffer the most extreme forms of confinement,” according to Albrecht.
Albrecht added, “Mercy For Animals will keep calling for meaningful changes to improve the lives of all farmed animals in the United States by promoting the Industrial Agriculture Accountability Act, introduced by Sen. Cory Booker and Reps. Jim McGovern, Earl Blumenauer, and Grace Meng.”
Attorney Steve Wells, who currently serves as chair of Dorsey & Whitney’s Appellate Practice Group, has been following the Prop 12 case closely.
“Everyone was watching to see if the Court would take a very expansive view of the dormant Commerce Clause in this case, but on the part the justices all agreed with, it’s really quite traditional and not a departure at all from traditional Commerce Clause jurisprudence,” explains Wells.
“The fracturing occurred on what is called the Pike test (after an earlier case), in which the Court can engage in the balancing of economic interests to determine whether a state statute imposes an impermissible burden on interstate commerce. That’s a very rarely used doctrine. Justice Gorsuch would cut back on it, while many of the other justices would keep it more viable, though almost all agreed it wouldn’t apply here,” says Wells.
To note, Mr. Wells was counsel of record in National Meat Association v. Harris, 565 US 452 (2012), in which the Court agreed 9-0 with our claim that a similar California animal handling law was preempted by federal law and thus invalid.
You can read our original story on the Supreme Court’s Prop 12 decision from Thursday here:
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