Supreme Court Takes Up California’s Attempt To Control How Other States’ Farmers Treat Pigs
Can the state of California control how farmers in other states raise their pigs? Today the Supreme Court said it will weigh in on the matter.
California voters in 2018 approved Proposition 12, a ballot initiative that banned the sale of pork and chicken if the livestock was not raised in pens large enough for the animals to move around freely. California residents eat lots of pork (13 percent of what is consumed in the United States), but the state produces only .3 percent of the national supply. And so Proposition 12 had the impact of forcing regulations (and significant costs) on farms outside California.
The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) filed suit against the state, arguing that Proposition 12 violated the dormant commerce clause, the constitutional doctrine that forbids states from imposing regulations that interfere with interstate commerce.
A Supreme Court precedent from 1970, Pike v. Bruce Church Inc., concluded that overly burdensome regulations that control the circumstances by which food producers can ship goods to other states can run afoul of the commerce clause when they force significant costs on those producers with little actual benefit. The NPPC is leaning on that decision (and some others) to argue that Prop. 12 is unconstitutional.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta is defending the proposition (as is the Humane Society of the United States), noting that the law is not discriminatory (it treats pork producers within the state the same as those out of the state) and citing several top pork producers, such as Hormel and Tyson, that say they will be able to continue to meet the needs of California consumers. Bonta further claims, “Petitioners have not alleged that
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