Date set for U.S. Supreme Court to hear arguments on California pig law

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

The United States Supreme Court in October will hear oral arguments in a challenge to California’s Proposition 12, a law that requires each pig to have 24 square feet of space. 

Prop. 12 also bans the sale of pork products from other states, where most pork consumed in California originates, if the rancher does not abide by the law’s space requirements. Ranchers, retailers and restaurant owners have voiced concerns that the currently paused law will double or triple the price of pork.

Oral arguments will take place before the Supreme Court on Oct. 11. Each side will receive about 30 minutes to argue their case. Following oral arguments, the court will have the remainder of its term to deliver an opinion in the case, which could come around June 2023. 

The National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation are petitioning the Supreme Court to consider the constitutionality of one state imposing excessively burdensome regulations on other states. They argue the law violates the Interstate Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“California consumes 13% of U.S. pork, but produces only 0.1% of what it consumes,” according to the petition. “Proposition 12’s sow-housing requirements thus fall almost exclusively on farmers outside of its borders. The Ninth Circuit accurately described petitioners’ allegations about how those requirements operate extraterritorially to disrupt the $26-billion-a-year market in pork, force California’s preferred production methods on farmers everywhere, and impose the high costs of those methods on out-of-state farmers and consumers…”

The state of California claims Prop. 12 is similar to existing requirements that out-of-state producers use particular labels or meeting quality or safety standards. Prop. 12 does not prevent out-of-state pork producers from making products that do not conform to the law, so long as they sell the pork outside of California, state officials argue. 

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