The May 11 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on California’s Proposition 12 is not taking effect until at least next year. That’s because the Sacramento Superior Court is permitting pork in the supply chain as of July 1 to continue to be sold in California through Dec. 31 this year.

California voters passed Proposition 12 in 2018. The ballot measure imposes minimum confinement standards for egg-laying hens, veal calves, and pigs used to produce shell eggs, liquid eggs, whole veal meat, and whole pork meat sold anywhere in California. The law means that those products produced in other states are not eligible for sale in California.

The law further restricts the sale of these products in California if they are derived from animals not raised in compliance with the state animal housing standards.

In the state case of  California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce v. Ross, the state court had previously stayed the enforcement of Proposition 12 for whole pork meat until July 1, 2023. The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) issued guidance suggesting it would not take action against noncompliant pork in inventory as of July 1, 2023. The guidance, however, left unanswered several key questions, including what it meant for the product to be in inventory as of July 1.

In the  June 16 order for case filed by the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, Kruse & Son, Inc., California Grocers Association, California Restaurant Association, and California Retailers Association the order (modifying a November 28, 2022 order) states that the previously issued injunction against enforcement expires as scheduled on July 1, 2023, except for products already in commerce.

The order states that noncompliant whole pork meat already in the stream of commerce and in the possession of an “end user” or “pork distributor” (as both terms are defined in 3 CCR 1322), or an FSIS-inspected establishment, may be sold, transported, or donated through Dec. 31, 2023.

To qualify for the exemption, the end user, pork distributor, or FSIS-inspected establishment need only self-certify that it or another end user, pork distributor, or FSIS-inspected establishment possessed the product as of July 1, 2023. 

Notably, by extending in limited form the current stay order, the court’s order enjoins enforcement of Proposition 12 by any party, whether it be the state or a private litigant. This maintains the injunction prohibiting private parties from enforcing Proposition 12 with respect to these products.

The stay lasts through the end of the year, meaning any product exempted under the stay must be sold through or shipped back out of California by the end of 2023.  At the end of the year, the case will automatically be dismissed with prejudice, and the plaintiffs waive the ability to seek any further relief from Proposition 12 enforcement. This signals the extension is likely the last one in this case.

The state’s stay order provides some time-limited flexibility for companies seeking to transition to Proposition 12-compliant pork supply chains. 

The order thus allows for continued sell-through and distribution of noncompliant pork produced before July 1, so long as the product is in commerce by July 1. The order does not provide any allowances for products produced after July 1, 2023, nor does it provide any allowance for pigs on the ground but not yet harvested before July 1, 2023.

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