At midnight on January 1st, 2022, the state of California officially enacted Proposition 12; a measure the Humane Society of the United States called the “strongest law in the world for addressing farm animal confinement”. The law requires much more space than the current industry standard for laying hens, sows, and veal calves and bars the sale of any meat or eggs not raised to these new standards in the state of California – regardless of where the animals were born, raised, or slaughtered.
Though the law is in effect, legal battles surrounding it will continue. National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation have jointly filed a lawsuit challenging the law on Commerce Clause grounds; arguing that California doesn’t have the right to change production practices in other states. So far, that argument has suffered some defeats in lower courts as California has argued that this law isn’t a Commerce Clause violation because they are treating all pork producers nationally the same, with regard to selling meat in California. This case is currently awaiting a decision by the Supreme Court about whether or not they will hear the case. Attorney on the case Gary Baise from Olsson Frank Weeda joined me for our Tuesday, January 4th show to discuss the details ahead of the Supreme Court.
In addition to the ongoing legal challenges of this law, there are practical challenges as well for grocers, restaurants, and other pork retailers in California because the rulemaking under this law has not yet been finalized. In November, the California Grocers Association, California Restaurant Association, California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, California Retailers Association and a meat processor called Kruse and Sons filed a lawsuit in the state to delay implementation of the law, arguing that the state had missed many deadlines in publishing their regulations and there was too much uncertainty to push ahead with the January 1st implementation date. They were seeking a 28 month extension to allow the state to finish their regulations.
In the meantime; farmers, consumers, and retailers are living in a Kafka-esque world where the law that’s in place hasn’t yet been written, might yet be found unconstitutional, and yet the penalties for violating it are already in place. Regardless of the merits of Prop 12, the rollout in California has not been a template for good governance.