When does 3 follow 12? That’s when the Supreme Court’s decision on California’s Proposition 12 also freed the logjam on Massachusetts Question 3.
The Supreme Court last week handed down a 5-to-4 decision favoring California’s Prop 12. The majority found the voter-approved initiative does not violate the U.S. Constitution, and California can decide what meat can be sold in its state.
Massachusetts Question 3, which imposes housing requirements much like California Prop 12 on the port industry, was put on hold pending the Supreme Court’s ruling. It was initially set to go into effect last summer.
Nearly all pork products produced in the United States fail to meet the Massachusetts housing standard, according to the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC).
The Supreme Court decision means Question 3 comes off the shelf.
Known as the Act to Prevent Cruelty in Farm Animals, Question 3 was approved by almost 78 percent of Massachusetts voters in 2016.
The measure requires state farmers to give chickens, pigs, and calves enough room to turn around, stand up, lie down, and fully extend their limbs. It also prohibits the sale of eggs or meat from animals raised in conditions that did not meet these standards.
The measure was supported by the Humane Society of the United States and its allies, and opposed by regional and national animal agriculture groups. Proponents argued that the initiative represented a modest animal welfare reform that would benefit food safety, while opponents rejected both claims and warned that the regulations would sharply increase the price of animal products, harming low-income Massachusetts residents.
Question 3 has been the subject of two legal challenges. The first, attempting to block it from the ballot for procedural reasons, was ruled against by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in July 2016. The second was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court by a coalition of agricultural states, claiming Question 3’s provisions violated the dormant Commerce Clause; the Court declined to hear the case in January 2019.
Massachusetts is expected to move to the implementation stage, although Bay State officials have yet to say much about how they expect to proceed. Non-compliant pork sales are currently being permitted.
NPPC President Terry Wolters says his organization is still working “to preserve the rights of America’s pig farmers to raise hogs in the way that is best for their animals and maintains a reliable supply of pork for consumers.”
Proposition 12 requires veal calves, breeding pigs, and egg-laying hens to be housed in systems that comply with specific California housing standards. Products from other states that are offered for sale in California must be in compliance. Question 3 bans any uncooked whole pork sold in the state that does not comply with Massachusetts-specific housing requirements regardless of where the pork is produced.
Question 3 also bans the trans-shipment of whole pork through Massachusets, which likely will impact neighboring New England states.
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