In the past 15 years, several states have passed laws regarding the amount of space that specific types of farm animals- pregnant sows, veal calves and laying hens- must be given. The constitutionality of one of these laws, passed as a ballot proposal in California, will be considered in October by the Supreme Court of the United States (“SCOTUS”).
“Prop 12” was passed in 2018 and required that eggs produced and sold in California be from cage-free hens. Additionally, it required that pork and veal sold in California come from farms without veal crates or gestation crates. These requirements apply not only to California producers, but also to producers across the country (and the world) selling products into the large California market. While Prop 12 took effect in January 2022, a California state court has prevented its enforcement until six months after the regulations outlining its administration are finalized.
Prop 12 was also challenged in federal court. In one case, the National Pork Producers Council and American Farm Bureau Federation (“NPPC/AFBF”) argued that it violates the “commerce clause” to the United States Constitution. The commerce clause gives Congress the right to pass laws affecting multiple states. On the flip side, the “dormant commerce clause” limits state legislatures, with some exceptions, to only passing laws affecting people located in that specific state. The NPPC/AFBF case argued that Prop 12 acted as a barrier to trade between states by imposing obligations on out-of-state competitors in order to assist local producers.
The plaintiffs lost at both the federal district court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. However, NPPC/AFBF requested that SCOTUS hear the appeal and that request was accepted. It will be heard at SCOTUS on October 11th. To see other states with similar statutes, click here.