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Pork Industry Loses Supreme Court Battle

(Washington D.C.)- The pork industry is trying to decide their next move after losing a major legal fight last week in the U.S. Supreme Court.


By a 5-4 vote, what’s known as Proposition 12 in California was upheld.


The National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation expressed disappointment at the decision to affirm the law they fought hard to overturn.


The law requires pork producers in California to house each hog with 24 square feet of space in conditions allowing a sow to turn around without touching an enclosure.


Hog farmers in other states must comply with the standard if they want to sell their pork in California.  Any sale of pork not meeting the requirement under the law is a criminal offense and civil violation.


The pork industry argued a state with a law that restricts the flow of commerce outside its boundaries and forces producers from other jurisdictions to comply with their rules was unconstitutional.


“At the heart of this argument is whether one state can set the rules for the entire country,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall.


Josh Trenary, Executive Director of Indiana Pork, said there will be people hurt by the high court’s decision.


“Misguided regulations generated by one state but applied nationally places a strain both on pork farmers and consumers,” said Josh Trenary, Executive Director of Indiana Pork.


National Pork Producers Council CEO Bryan Humphreys said the ruling comes at a time when hog farmers are facing high input costs during what he described as “some of the most challenging economic times that the pork industry has seen in almost 20-years.”


Humphreys predicted higher prices for consumers, smaller farms going out of business and more producers consolidating.


According to a 2021 Rabobank report, the law would force out of state hog farmers wanting to sell pork in California to reduce the number of pigs they raise unless they increase their current housing space by 20 to 25 percent above industry standards.


The report also predicted the law will create a severe pork deficit and higher consumer prices in California and a pork surplus in the rest of the nation from producers relying more on other markets instead of complying with the new requirements.


Trenary believes the challenge for hog farmers will be daunting but still do able.


“Pork farmers are committed to producing safe, affordable, high quality protein and have always found ways to do so in any regulatory environment.  The level of difficulty in accomplishing that goal certainly went up because of this decision, but pork farmers are great at overcome challenges,” Trenary said.


By a thin margin, the court rejected claims from NPPC and AFBF that Proposition 12 violated the U.S. Constitution’s Dormant Commerce Clause. The clause prevents states from passing laws that burden other states' commerce.


“Companies that choose to sell products in various states must normally comply with the laws of those various states,” the Supreme Court wrote in its ruling.


The court also rejected arguments that the benefits of Proposition 12 to California residents do not outweigh the burden the law places on pork producers to comply.


Animal rights activists, though, applauded the decision.


“We are grateful to our many outstanding allies who helped make Proposition 12 a success. We won’t stop fighting until the pork industry ends its cruel, reckless practice of confining mother pigs in cages so small they can’t even turn around,” said Kitty Block, President and CEO of the Humane Society of the U.S.


During a news conference on Friday, the NPPC said it is evaluating the Supreme Court opinion and considering the next steps to take.

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