May 12, 2023


US Supreme Court upholds California's humane-pork law



The US Supreme Court has upheld California's new humane-pork law, delivering a blow to the US pork industry's challenge and reinforcing the authority of states to enforce regulations with far-reaching economic implications, Yahoo! Finance reported.


The court's ruling has the potential to compel pork producers to make costly adjustments in order to continue selling their products in the most populous state of the country. The pork industry's argument that California is infringing on the US Constitution by regulating commerce beyond its borders was rejected.


In the court's decision, Justice Neil Gorsuch said that the pork industry was urging the court to act boldly where Congress had chosen not to. He noted that producers had repeatedly failed to convince Congress to establish a uniform rule for pork production using its explicit Commerce Clause authority.


California's law, passed as a ballot initiative in 2018, prohibits the sale of pork in the state unless pregnant pigs are given a minimum of 24 square feet (2.2 square metres) of space. Industry groups argue that this effectively forces out-of-state producers to make costly changes. California imports over 99% of the pork it consumes.


Scott Hays, president of the National Pork Producers Council, said that allowing state overreach will increase prices for consumers and drive small farms out of business, leading to more consolidation.


The law, known as Proposition 12, is expected to have a significant impact on pork farmers, consumers, and interstate commerce as a whole, according to Beth Milito, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business's Small Business Legal Center. She views the court's decision as setting a dangerous precedent that will disproportionately affect small businesses.


The National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation argued that the measure violates the dormant commerce clause, which limits states' power to regulate commerce outside their borders without congressional approval.


The pork industry contended that a ruling in favor of California would encourage states to impose their moral and ideological demands on companies in other regions before their products could be sold.


The Biden administration sided with the pork producers, while the pharmaceutical industry also supported the pork lobby, as the outcome of the case could impact litigation concerning state laws regulating nationwide drug prices.


California countered by asserting that the dormant commerce clause was designed to prevent economic protectionism and not neutral restrictions on in-state sales. The state accused the industry of exaggerating the law's impact, noting that pork producers already segregate supply chains to sell products labeled as "antibiotic-free" and "crate-free."


-      Yahoo! Finance

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