Prop 12, passed overwhelmingly by California voters in 2018, is currently on track to become fully effective on Jan. 1, 2024. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-to-4 ruling last May, upheld Prop 12. In the court’s opinion, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote that “the type of pork chops California merchants may sell” is not on the list of “weighty Constitutional issues.”
If a New Farm Bill passes Congress before the end of 2023, it’s unlikely that it will be used to overturn California’s Proposition 12. It’s been tried before and did not get anywhere then. The content of Farm Bills usually involve consensus, not overkill. The EATS Act could upset up to 1,000 state laws, much like the so-called King Amendment did before 2018.
Much opposition to Prop 12 involves the one-time cost to the pork industry for more space for breeding pigs. California had its role in regulating goods sold within its borders affirmed, meaning its “humane and commonsense” animal housing standards can take precedence over the more extreme confinement practices favored by some national pork producers.
If it had been added to the Farm Bill back then, the King Amendment would undermine numerous state agriculture laws and infringe on states’ fundamental role in establishing regulations within their own borders.
One last attempt to stop Prop 12 is being made with a bill titled: “The Ending Agriculture Trade Suppression Act,” or the EATS Act. Whether on a stand-alone basis or inclusion in the New Farm Bill, the EATS Act attempts to bring down Prop 12.
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.
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.
Proposition 12 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 unless the provisions of the California law are met.
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.
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