A national, legal review of whether California’s animal welfare laws apply to animals raised outside the state will bring serious repercussions for all animal agriculture.

Proposition 12

In March 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to take up an appeal of a lower courts’ ruling in the case involving the Golden State’s Proposition 12 law. The law, passed in 2018, is backed by welfare groups like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). This ruling could impact similar laws like one passed in Massachusetts impacting the egg industry.

Federal support

Those arguing against the state law’s potential national implications, got a big boost in June 2022. U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, a high ranking official in the U.S. Department of Justice, filed a brief supporting the arguments of the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). She joined those farm lobbying groups and the 26 states' attorneys general who are asking for Proposition 12’s jurisdiction and impact to be limited to California.

In her brief to the court, Prelogar said Proposition 12 violates the constitution and will create burdens in interstate commerce.

“The combined effect of those regulations would be to effectively force the industry to ‘conform’ to whatever state (with market power) is the greatest outlier,” Prelogar said in the brief.

Impacts

This support, and the courts’ current conservative lean, could signal that Proposition 12 and any similar state and local laws passed in the future would not affect the farmers living outside of those jurisdictions. However, the opposite would be true if it rules with California, as the lower court did.

It’s unclear when exactly the court will make a ruling, but whatever happens it will shape the future of American agriculture and animal welfare.