The Supreme Court of the United States is doing something I never imagined it would–it’s hearing a case on California’s Proposition 12.
What is Prop 12?
Some background first. California voters approved Prop 12 in 2018. The law mandates that farmers meet specific minimum-housing requirements for veal calves, breeding pigs, and egg-laying hens.
More significantly, Prop 12 prohibits the sale of meat that wasn’t produced consistent with its requirements. In other words, farmers across the country have to follow this law, or they won’t be allowed to sell their products in California. That’s a big deal because California farmers raise very little pork. Yet the state accounts for 15 percent of pork consumption in the United States.
(Protip: Check out my earlier AGDAILY article with more specifics on this.)
Why that’s a problem
Prop 12’s requirements weren’t developed on a scientific basis or on good animal husbandry. These are just arbitrary requirements that millions of farmers across the United States will now have to follow. And it’s going to cost millions of dollars for farmers to modify their production systems to comply with the law.
As American Farm Bureau Federation’s Zippy Duvall said, “one state’s misguided law should not dictate farming practices for an entire nation.”
Back to the Supremes
AFBF and National Pork Producers Council filed a lawsuit challenging Prop 12 as unconstitutional. The legal theory is that the law unconstitutionally imposed a burden on producers across the country, not just those in California. And states aren’t supposed to do that under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause. The lower courts dismissed AFBF and NPPC’s lawsuit. But the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case on appeal.
Quite frankly, I’m shocked. The Supreme Court refused to hear another challenge to Prop 12 last summer. And the high court has shied away from reviewing similar lawsuits based on other laws passed in California. And let’s not forget, the Supreme Court doesn’t hear most appeals that come before it anyway.
So what’s different this time? Nothing, honestly. The composition of the court hasn’t changed in the last year. It’s possible that the court’s new conservative majority decided it was time to hear this kind of Commerce Clause issue. But we’re left waiting until the court issues a ruling, potentially by year’s end, to find out why they’re hearing the case.
In the meantime, Prop 12 was slated to go into effect January 1, 2022. A trial court, however, paused implementation because the regulatory rules aren’t yet written. The court stayed enforcement until 180 days after the regulations become final.
So now we wait.