WASHINGTON – The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) are asking a federal court to rule California's Proposition 12 invalid under the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution. The groups announced the legal challenge on Dec. 6.

Proposition 12 requires producers of veal calves to house animals with at least 43 sq. ft. of usable floor space per calf by 2020. Beginning in 2022, sows will be required to be housed in a minimum of 24 sq. ft. of usable space per animal and laying hens will be cage free. NPPC said less than 1 percent of US pork production meets these requirements. To comply with Proposition 12 would require pork producers to make significant investments in their operations to be ready by the implementation date. The complaint filed by NPPC and AFBF is asking a federal court to rule Proposition 12 invalid under the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution because it imposes animal housing standards beyond California's borders.

“Proposition 12 revolves around a set of arbitrary standards that lack any scientific, technical or agricultural basis, and will only serve to inflict further harm on US hog farmers,” said Jen Sorenson, NPPC vice president. “California represents approximately 15 percent of the US pork market, and Proposition 12 will force hog farmers who want to sell pork into the populous state to switch to alternative housing systems, at a significant cost to their business. US pork producers are already fighting to expand market opportunities overseas. We shouldn’t have to fight to preserve our domestic market too,” she added.

The complaint comes after a district court judge denied the North American Meat Institute's (NAMI) request for a preliminary injunction against Proposition 12. NAMI is considering an appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Ellen Steen, general counsel for AFBF, said the law was presented as a solution to improve animal welfare and food safety. But, she said, the law has nothing to do with food safety and will result in many more animals suffering because of arbitrary rules.

“The best way to protect animal well-being is to allow farmers to make farm-specific and animal-specific decisions on animal care," Steen said. "Prop 12 will deny them that ability while driving up their costs. The hardest hit will be family farms, especially smaller independent farms. That means Prop 12 will also lead to fewer family farms and greater consolidation in the pork industry.”