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North American Meat Institute Challenges California’s Prop 12 In Court

NAMI Prop 12

The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 12: The Farm Animal Confinement Initiative (Prop 12). NAMI opposes the law, saying it will hurt the nation’s food value chain by increasing costs for producers and consumers.

“Prop 12 hurts the family on a budget with higher prices for pork, veal and eggs, and unfairly punishes livestock producers outside of California by forcing them to spend millions more just to access California markets,” said NAMI President and CEO Julie Anna Potts. “We are a highly efficient and unified economy in this country and so that’s just not right. If this unconstitutional law is allowed to stand, California will dictate farming practices across the nation. California’s overreach creates an unworkable patchwork of differing state regulations that will make it impossible for the supply chain, from small farmers to your local grocer, to function.”

The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, asks the court to halt implementation of the law because Prop 12 violates the commerce clause and the federal structure of the United States Constitution. The Constitution prohibits states from discriminating against interstate and foreign commerce, regulating commerce outside of their borders or imposing undue burdens on interstate and foreign commerce. Prop 12 violates each of these limitations.

Enacted in November 2018, Prop 12 imposes space requirements regarding breeding pigs and veal calves within California. The law creates a barrier to trade by imposing obligations on out-of-state competitors in an effort to assist local producers of pork and veal. It reaches beyond the state’s borders by prohibiting the sale in California of uncooked pork or veal from animals housed in ways that do not meet California’s requirements. As a result, Prop 12 sets confinement standards for how pigs and veal calves are raised anywhere in the United States or in any foreign country.

Lastly, Prop 12 imposes burdens on the interstate markets for pork and veal that are not justified by legitimate local interests. For example, not only does Prop 12 prohibit the sale of uncooked cuts of pork from the breeding pigs, it prohibits the sale of meat from the offspring of those breeding pigs, even though the offspring are not subject to Prop 12’s space requirements. This sales ban means the law effectively regulates how sows and veal calves are housed everywhere in the United States if the meat from those animals or their offspring could be sold in California.

Prop 12 exposes companies to potential criminal penalties and the threat of civil lawsuits filed by competitors and others. Given these legal threats and the unacceptable burden on interstate commerce Prop 12 imposes by dictating to livestock producers throughout the country how to raise their livestock, NAMI’s lawsuit asks the court to enjoin the law’s enforcement.

According to the State of California’s own economic analysis, consumer prices are likely to increase because producers will have to spend to expand or construct new animal housing which may cost more to operate in the long term. The state acknowledges it may take several years for farmers to comply, resulting in a shortfall of products and increased prices for consumers.

In June, NAMI submitted public comments regarding California’s Proposition 12 calling for postponement of the law’s implementation so multiple problems affecting consumers and producers may be addressed.

NAMI’s members process the vast majority of U.S. beef, pork, lamb and poultry, as well as manufacture the equipment and ingredients needed to produce the meat and poultry products.

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Erica Sacra

Outside of her web editing duties, Erica enjoys watching movies and spending time with friends and family. She loves trivia and Kentucky Wildcats basketball.

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