Supreme Court to decide how states can bring home the bacon

A California food fight reaches the high court.
pig farm
pig farm(AP)
Published: Oct. 10, 2022 at 12:56 PM CDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday about a California law regulating how pork, veal and eggs are sold in the state. Pork producing and farming advocates say California’s law is too much of a burden for other states to comply with. California officials say if you don’t want to follow our rules, go do business somewhere else.

In 2018, California voters approved Proposition 12, an initiative banning the sale of pork within the state if breeding pigs do not have 24 square feet to move around in their stalls. That goes for all pork producers and farmers even if their pigs are raised in other states. The main parts of the law went into effect at the beginning of the year.

“If you’re looking for an example of an unconstitutional law, Proposition 12 is it,” said Chief Legal Strategist Michael Formica with the National Pork Producers Council.

The NPPC and the American Farm Bureau Federation say Proposition 12 is not fair because nearly all pork sold in California comes from out of state while Californians make up 13 percent of the nation’s pork consuming market.

“California can regulate what happens in California but they can’t regulate how a business or a farm is run in, you know in, Indiana or in Iowa or in Minnesota, in Tennessee, in Georgia. That’s left to the people of those states,” said Formica.

California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross, the named defendant in the case, refused to comment. However, a spokesperson for California’s Attorney General pointed to their legal argument that says, “The only Proposition 12-compliant pork that out-of-state businesses must produce is the pork they choose to supply to California’s market; they are free to produce as many other pork products as they want, and to sell them to markets outside of California.”

The question before the court is whether California’s law violates part of the interstate commerce clause by making business with other states excessively burdensome.

Jennifer Zwagerman, Director of the Drake Agricultural Law Center, said the case has major implications, not just for how one state’s pork production laws affects another but also other health, safety and welfare issues.

“There’s just a host of things that people are really concerned to see if California is successful, what’s next,” questioned Zwagerman.

As for the case, lower courts have previously sided with California by saying increased compliance costs are not a significant burden on interstate commerce.