Fifteen state attorneys general filed a legal brief in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, supporting a lawsuit by the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) that challenges California’s Proposition 12, enacted by that state’s voters in 2018.

The California law contains two operative provisions with respect to animal confinement. One provision regulates the manner in which California’s own producers may confine egg-laying hens, breeding pigs or calves raised for veal. The other provision prohibits the sale in California of any eggs, pork or veal produced from animals not raised in accordance with the state’s animal-confinement regulations, regardless of where those animals were raised.  

In their lawsuit, NPPC and AFBF are asking the federal district court to prevent California’s sales ban from being enforced.

“These efforts portend exactly the sorts of economic friction and trade wars the Commerce Clause was designed to prevent,” the attorneys general wrote in the brief, filed on March 10. “It is not hard to imagine, for example, a State obstructing access to its markets for goods produced by labor paid less than $15 per hour... Nor is it difficult to see how other States might retaliate to such extraterritorial minimum-wage laws with their own bans — such as a ban on goods produced by labor lacking right-to-work protections. The Commerce Clause was adopted to head off precisely this sort of escalating interstate conflict.”

Advertisement

The states participating in the legal brief include Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.

“The Constitution does not allow California to mandate nationwide policy on how to raise livestock,” Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said in a press release. “For farmers and ranchers to comply would be a major financial burden for Oklahoma producers that would translate into significantly higher prices at the grocery store. Growing up on a wheat and cattle farm in Garfield County, I understand the extremely difficult conditions our farmers and ranchers already face. Adding more red tape, like California’s Proposition 12, would make this way of life next to impossible. That is why I am pleased to stand with my attorneys general colleagues and Oklahoma agriculture producers against this law.”

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt also issued a press release on his state’s involvement in the filing.

“Under our Constitution, the best and most appropriate people to determine agriculture policy in Kansas are our farmers and ranchers and the representatives serving on their behalf in Topeka,” Schmidt said. “Those decisions should not be left up to the whims of politicians or voters in other states, and certainly not those in California.”