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Meat Institute files SCOTUS brief to reject California’s Prop 12

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Recently, the North American Meat Institute filed an Amicus Brief with the U.S. Supreme Court calling for the reversal of what it deems to be unconstitutional judgements to uphold California’s Prop 12.  Since the measure’s passage, most agricultural producers have opposed California’s proposed Prop 12.

The proposition creates minimal space requirements for veal calves, breeding pigs, and egg-laying hens. Mandatory changes to facilities may cost farmers hundreds of millions — and potentially up to billions — of dollars. The rule is particularly concerning because it affects California-producers as well as those who sell goods to consumers in California. Nearly all pork facilities in the United States fail to meet the standards outlined in the proposition, threatening farmer’s livelihoods and consumers’ wallets alike. 

Particularly notable is that California own Department of Food and Agriculture has previously admitted the initiative will have no effect on food safety while also increasing the mortality rate for sows subject to it.

» Related: LA Times’ applause for Prop 12 is nothing short of anti-animal agriculture activism

NAMI’s brief clearly outlines constitutional issues and violation of the court’s settled precedent while addressing the devastating financial impact that Proposition 12 would have on pork and veal interstate commerce. NAMI cites protections of the Constitution that defend farmers and craftsmen’s free market access and addresses Prop 12’s discrimination against out-of-state products. 

“A fundamental premise of our federal system is that each State is a sovereign laboratory of democracy, but only within its own borders,” the Meat Institute said in its brief. “As a result, the Constitution denies California the authority to dictate the conditions under which farm animals must be housed outside California’s borders. Nor may California erect trade barriers whose purpose and effect are to regulate commerce outside the State.”

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Image by RGtimeline, Shutterstock

The brief was filed in support of the National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation against Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. In January, a state court halted enforcement of the law until six months after the state finalizes rules that are now almost three years late.

Primary arguments against Prop 12 in the Amicus Brief include:

  • Proposition 12 improperly regulates extraterritorial commerce.
    • The Constitution prohibits state laws that regulate conduct outside their borders.
    • States may not restrict imports to control commerce in other states.
    • Proposition 12’s sales ban is an impermissible extraterritorial regulation.
  • Proposition 12 excessively burdens interstate commerce.
    • The sales ban serves no legitimate local interest.

The Meat Institute wrote that Prop 12 “… presents fundamental questions about the scope of a State’s authority to erect trade barriers in an effort to dictate production and conditions outside the State.” 

“A fundamental premise of our federal system is that each State is a sovereign laboratory of democracy, but only within its own borders. As a result, the Constitution denies California the authority to dictate the conditions under which farm animals must be housed outside California’s Borders.”

If Prop 12 holds, members will be faced with the choice of whether to abandon California’s market or spend millions of dollars rebuilding facilities under the new requirements. This choice comes coupled with the 13 percent hold California represents on the United States market for veal and pork consumption. 

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