Parties File Amicus Curiae Briefs Claiming Calif. Proposition 12 is Unconstitutional

Parties in favor of the plaintiffs, including manufacturing, mining, and beef associations, the United States Chamber of Commerce, 20 states, and the United States filed amicus curiae briefs in the Ninth Circuit on Wednesday supporting the appellants’ claim that a California law which prohibits the sale of pork meat within the state from sows that are housed without a specific amount of space is unconstitutional. 

The plaintiffs include two trade associations, the National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation. They appealed the case originating in the Southern District of California about California’s 2018 Proposition 12, which requires certain care for female pigs used to breed pork meat sold in California. The parties in their appeal said the proposition is not constitutional because the requirements it places on interstate commerce breach the commerce clause in the Constitution. 

The United States said that the Constitution protects the autonomy of individual states, and that one state could not place policies which apply to other states. They claimed the district court “erred by dismissing the complaint” because the “objective of the sales ban is to prevent animal cruelty in other states.” Farmers and pork producers outside the state would not be able to use current practices which are, reportedly, more cost effective or efficient. 

The brief stated that “Supreme Court precedent establishes that California may not ban importation of wholesome products based solely on a desire to prevent what California considers animal cruelty that is occurring entirely outside the State’s borders.” Because California residents reportedly consume 13 percent of pork sold in the United States, the proposition would have a large impact on pork producers throughout the country. 

The amici further asserted that Proposition 12 could have negative impacts on United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs, citing the potential increase in pork prices, which was projected by the plaintiffs to be a 9.2 percent increase in production costs. Further, the United States claimed that enforcement of Proposition 12 would bring a higher possibility for biosecurity concerns because of newly required inspections, and more burdens on the USDA’s Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service. 

The states added that they have a “sovereign interest in preserving their authority to establish policy for their own farmers,” and that the rules put in place by California are “a substantial departure” from practices currently used in the states. They claimed the statute threatens their sovereignty. “The vast majority of States have chosen to permit farmers to raise calves, hogs, and hens in accordance with commercial standards and agricultural best practices rather than impose specific animal-confinement requirements,” the brief stated. 

The brief filed by the Chamber of Commerce and various associations presented similar arguments, noting that frequently the pork supply chain stretches through multiple states and that Proposition 12 would have out-of-state impacts that would “far exceed” other requirements. They said the proposition would “substantially and irreparably burden out-of-state producers” and does not serve a “legitimate local interest.” They also claimed that if Proposition 12 were to take effect, it would lead to similar regulations across the United States. “If California can assert legal control over out-of-state meat production, then Indiana can do the same when it comes to Kentucky’s cigarette manufacturers, and North Dakota can regulate New York’s art transactions. As these examples demonstrate, this impulse is not limited to food. States could rely on a similar theory to regulate supply chains in virtually any industry.”

The states’ brief was submitted by the Attorney General of Indiana. Other amicus curiae organizations were represented by Hogan Lovells US LLP and counsel for the individual organizations. The plaintiffs are represented by Mayer Brown, and the defendants by the Office of the California Attorney General.