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SCOTUS oral arguments on California’s Proposition 12 begin today

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Today, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing a case brought by the National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation against California’s Proposition 12. In January, Proposition 12 banned the sale of pork, veal, and eggs in California from livestock that wasn’t raised according to the state’s production standards — no matter which state in the U.S. the animals were actually raised in.

Live oral arguments were set to begin at or around 10 a.m. ET on the Supreme Court of the United States’ website

Opponents of Proposition 12 argue that the unconstitutional measures it imposes are not only unconstitutional, but threaten animal welfare with arbitrary standards. Laws such as this also threaten animal welfare and threaten to disrupt supply chains and increase food prices.

California’s 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. Nearly all pork facilities in the United States fail to meet the standards outlined in the proposition. 

»Related: What does California’s Prop 12 mean for animal agriculture?

“In addition to its unconstitutional extraterritoriality,” said NPPC President Terry Wolters., “Prop. 12 sets arbitrary animal housing standards that lack any scientific, technical or agricultural basis and that will only inflict economic harm on U.S. hog farmers and consumers.”

After Proposition 12’s approval in November 2018, the legislation has had producers from all sectors of the agricultural industry on edge. While over half of the state’s voters marked their ballots in favor of the proposition, the NPCC and other organizations have continued to oppose the ballot measure maintaining that the unscientific housing standards the ballot imposes have far-reaching effects across the country.

»Related: Perspective: Understanding how big a SCOTUS ruling on California’s Prop 12 would be

On October 2019, the North American Meat Institute filed suit saying that Proposition 12 violated the Constitution’s Commerce Clause by imposing restrictions on farmers across the country. 

The NPCC estimates that the cost to implement Proposition 12 measures will come at a cost of $3,500 per sow. A cost that farmers will have to pass onto consumers during a time of record-high inflation.

The regulations that Prop 12 will enforce on the American hog farmer — approximately 85 percent who reside outside of California — will threaten producers’ livelihoods, creating significant challenges for how producers operate, while allowing others to dictate how producers raise hogs without allowing producers any voice in the standards being imposed on them. 

It is unclear how long it will take for the U.S. Supreme Court to hand down a ruling.

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