WASHINGTON – The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) urged the US Supreme Court to review an appeal challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 12, California’s animal confinement law that will go into force in 2022. NAMI submitted a reply brief on June 7 in support of its petition to the high court for a writ of certiorari to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Prop 12 establishes specific minimum requirements for confinement of laying hens, breeding pigs and veal calves. Beginning in 2022, sows will need a minimum of 24 square feet of usable space per animal. Prop 12 also prohibits the sale in California of all products from animals not raised in compliance with the new rules, regardless of their origin. The legislation is limited to uncooked commodity pork such as cured, preserved or flavored. It does not include cooked products.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) released the proposed rule in late May along with details of what the agency believes are the fiscal impacts of the law.

For example, the CDFA acknowledged that California producers of shell eggs, liquid eggs, whole veal meat, and whole pork meat will find it more costly to compete with out-of-state farms that aren't required to follow similar rules for animal confinement.

“Food processing facilities based in the State will have to use more expensive ingredients, shell eggs, liquid eggs, whole veal meat, and whole pork meat, that are compliant with the Act compared to food processing facilities located outside the State,” according to the CDFA assessment.

Additionally, CDFA said the proposal does not directly impact the health and welfare of California residents, worker safety, or the state’s environment. However, the agency expects benefits to accrue to residents “…knowing that breeding pigs, veal calves, and egg-laying hens are raised with a minimum space requirement, which may be more space than covered animals previously were allotted.”

“This proposal is needed to implement the Proposition 12 initiative which was passed by California voters in 2018,” CDFA said. “A benefit is for proper and orderly implementation of a law directly decided by voters for them to purchase with confidence covered products from covered animals not raised in a cruel manner. There are no quantitative studies that document or measure the effect of purchasing shell eggs, liquid eggs, whole veal meat, and whole pork meat from farms animals not confined in a cruel manner for people in California.”

CDFA also found that the proposed regulation will have a “significant, statewide adverse economic impact” on businesses in California. The agency also noted potential increases in food costs for California residents and especially low-income consumers.

NAMI highlighted the assessment as confirmation that Prop 12 has no economic benefit to consumers and threatens the welfare of sows.

“The recently proposed rule by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) admits there are no benefits to Californians as a result of Prop 12. CDFA admits deaths of breeding sows will increase. Both are unintentional consequences of a costly and unconstitutional law,” said Julie Anna Potts, president and chief executive officer of NAMI. “Our petition to challenge the law has the support of more than 20 states and we think it should be reviewed by the Supreme Court.”