SACRAMENTO – Animal welfare and farming groups sued the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) for failing to enact the state’s animal confinement law, Proposition 12. Beginning in 2022, sows will need a minimum of 24 square feet of usable space per animal in addition to other requirements related to confinement. Pork not produced under these standards cannot be sold in California.

Voters passed the measure in 2018 and it was scheduled to go into force with a minimum space requirement for veal calves followed by space requirements for sows in 2022. However, lawmakers are far behind in rulemaking – California was supposed to have final regulations in place by September 2019.

Animal Wellness Action, Animal Wellness Foundation, the Center for a Humane Economy, and Americans for Family Farmers filed suit against CDFA challenging the agency’s proposed regulations to implement the law. The groups state that CDFA’s proposed regulations “conflict with the legislation implementing Proposition 12 by failing to account for the full range of harmful impacts of industrialized systems of animal confinement that have long dominated US meat and egg production.”

“The California Department of Food and Agriculture has a legal responsibility to propose and enact regulations that conform to all the terms of Proposition 12,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action. “With its proposed regulations, the agency has embraced the false framing from agribusiness groups and omitted the public health threats caused by confining the animals in cages and crates barely larger than their bodies. It is these overcrowded, high-stress conditions that create dangerous environments for pathogens to emerge and even mutate.”

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) challenged Prop 12 in December 2019, but a federal judge dismissed that case in April 2020. The groups filed an appeal in the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in September. But in late July 2021, a three-judge panel affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of the action which argued that Proposition 12 violated the dormant Commerce Clause which bars states from passing legislation that discriminates against or burdens interstate commerce.

NPPC and AFBF petitioned the US Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari to review the ruling of the Ninth Circuit panel.