WASHINGTON – The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) launched a federal court challenge against California’s Proposition 12, a measure that establishes specific minimum requirements for confinement of laying hens, breeding pigs and veal calves.

In the lawsuit, NAMI argues that Prop 12 is unconstitutional in several ways. First, the law prohibits the sale of uncooked pork or veal from animals housed in ways that do not meet California’s standards, thus creating a barrier against out-of-state competitors.

“The purpose of the sales ban is to “level the playing field” between California producers and out-of-state producers, and it does so by stripping away the competitive advantage out-of-state producers would have if they could sell their products in California without complying with costly confinement requirements that apply directly to California producers,” the lawsuit states.

The law also imposes substantial burdens on interstate markets for pork and veal. The lawsuit states that, “Because Proposition 12’s confinement requirements for veal calves and breeding sows go well beyond current industry standards, the sales ban requires producers to spend millions of dollars building California-compliant facilities and/or slash output, or to abandon the California market. The resulting harms, which will be borne primarily by out-of-state businesses, are not justified by any legitimate local interest.”

Finally, the law violates the commerce clause by directly regulating interstate and foreign commerce. “California lacks authority to regulate farming practices outside California, and it cannot condition access to its market as a means to control how farm animals are confined in other States and countries,” the lawsuit states. “That is precisely what Proposition 12’s sales ban does — it projects California law worldwide by banning the in-state sale of wholesome veal and pork imported from other States and countries unless out-of-state producers comply with California’s farm animal-confinement requirements outside of California.”

NAMI is seeking a preliminary injunction to halt implementation of the law, which the organization says violates the commerce clause of the US Constitution. The law also hurts the nation’s food chain by increasing costs for producers and consumers, the organization argued.

“Prop 12 hurts the family on a budget with higher prices for pork, veal and eggs, and unfairly punishes livestock producers outside of California by forcing them to spend millions more just to access California markets,” said Meat Institute President and CEO Julie Anna Potts. “We are a highly-efficient and unified economy in this country and so that’s just not right. If this unconstitutional law is allowed to stand, California will dictate farming practices across the nation. California’s overreach creates an unworkable patchwork of differing state regulations that will make it impossible for the supply chain, from small farmers to your local grocer, to function.”