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Court will not rehear Prop 12 challenge from Meat Institute

Attempts to overturn cage and pen space requirements in California continue to be turned down.

Jacqui Fatka

December 23, 2020

3 Min Read

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th circuit rejected the North American Meat Institute’s challenge on the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 12 in October, and again unanimously rejected the Meat Institute’s request for a rehearing by a full panel.

“The Meat Institute is disappointed in the decision and is considering filing a petition for certiorari,” says Meat Institute spokeswoman Sarah Little.

NAMI had petitioned the Ninth Circuit to try to get its case reheard en banc (by a full panel of the Court). Earlier this month the U.S. Department of Justice filed an amicus brief in support of the Meat Institute’s petition for rehearing en banc in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

In addition, the States of Indiana, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming filed a separate amicus brief in support of the Meat Institute’s petition.

Enacted in November 2018, Proposition 12 imposes space requirements regarding breeding pigs and veal calves within California. Prop 12 creates a barrier to trade by imposing obligations on out-of-state competitors in an effort to assist local producers of pork and veal, the Meat Institute challenges. Prop 12 reaches beyond the state’s borders by prohibiting the sale in California of uncooked pork or veal from animals housed in ways that do not meet California’s requirements. As a result, Prop 12 sets confinement standards for how pigs and veal calves are raised anywhere in the United States or in any foreign country.

In addition to banning the use of cages on California farms, Proposition 12 prohibits the sale of eggs, pork and veal from cage confinement systems - regardless of where the animals were raised. The Meat Institute said it opposes the law because it will hurt the nation’s food value chain by significantly increasing costs for producers and consumers.

According to the State of California’s own economic analysis, consumer prices are likely to increase because producers will have to spend to expand or construct new animal housing which may cost more to operate in the long term. The state acknowledges it may take several years for farmers to comply resulting in a shortfall of products and increased prices for consumers.

“Today’s rejection of NAMI’s petition means that the Court’s previous decision will stand, and Proposition 12 will not be halted from going into effect,” says Sarah Schweig, media relations associate for farm animal protection of the Humane Society.

Beginning December 31, 2021, Proposition 12 requires each sow whose offspring is intended to be sold into California be allotted at least 24 square feet in the group pen.

However, a legal challenge in a different California court brought by the National Pork Producers Council and American Farm Bureau Federation continues. Michael Formica, assistance vice president and general counsel at NPPC, said a key difference in the lawsuits is that the Meat Institute challenge is on behalf of processors, while the NPPC/AFBF one represents hog farmers. Although there is substantial dairy, poultry and egg processing in the state of California, there is virtually no pork production in the state.

In California, there are an estimated 8,000 breeding sows and 1,500 out of California’s 8,000 sows are used in commercial breeding which produces around 30,000 offspring a year. The offspring of approximately 673,000 sows is required to satisfy California consumers’ demand for pork meat annually, court documents noted. NPPC claims that by imposing these requirements on an industry that is national in scope, Proposition 12 unconstitutionally interferes with the functioning of a $26 billion a year interstate industry.

About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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