The Supreme Court will review a decision that upheld California’s Proposition 12, an animal housing law that requires pork sold in the state come from sows afforded a minimum amount of space.

The court issued an order Monday granting the petition from the National Pork Producers Council and American Farm Bureau Federation.

The law’s effective date has been delayed until July for some parties, including retailers and restaurants, according to an order issued in January by a California state judge.

NPPC contends that compliance with Prop 12 “will cost individual farmers millions of dollars” and could potentially “drive smaller hog farmers out of business and undermine the overall global competitiveness of the U.S. pork industry.” Twenty states backed the groups’ petition, which sought review of a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding the law.

“AFBF is pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision to consider the constitutionality of California’s law imposing arbitrary requirements on farmers well outside its borders," AFBF President Zippy Duvall said in a statement released after the Supreme Court order was issued.

"We share California’s goal of ensuring animals are well cared for, but Prop 12 fails to advance that goal," Duvall said. "We look forward to presenting the facts to the court, including how Prop 12 hamstrings farmers’ efforts to provide a safe environment for their animals, while harming small family farms and raising pork prices across the country. One state’s misguided law should not dictate farming practices for an entire nation.”

NPPC President Terry Wolters said the group is “extremely pleased that the Supreme Court will consider the constitutionality of Proposition 12, in which California seeks to impose regulations targeting farming practices outside its borders that would stifle interstate and international commerce."

The petition also has the support of the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. In addition, pork producer groups and state farm bureaus from Iowa and Minnesota backed the petition, as did the Minnesota AgriGrowth Council.

Arguing against review was the state of California, which is backed by the Humane Society of the U.S., Animal Legal Defense Fund, Animal Equality, The Humane League, Farm Sanctuary, Compassion in World Farming USA, and Animal Outlook.

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"We are confident the Supreme Court will uphold California's landmark farm animal protection law," HSUS President and CEO Kitty Block said. "The court has repeatedly affirmed the states' rights to enact laws protecting animals, public health and safety, and the pork industry should focus on eliminating cruel caging of animals rather than attacking popular, voter-passed animal cruelty laws."  

The petitioners and their supporters argue the law violates the “dormant Commerce Clause” by imposing requirements on operators outside of California. Nearly all — 99.87% — of the pork consumed by Californians comes from outside the state, where compliance with Prop 12 will cause an “excessive burden,” NPPC and AFBF said in their petition.

“If any law violates the dormant Commerce Clause’s extraterritoriality principle because of its practical effects on commerce in other states, it is Proposition 12 — but the Ninth Circuit affirmed dismissal in large part because it deems that principle virtually a ‘dead letter,’” the NPPC and AFBF petition said.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 3-0 for the state and against NPPC and AFBF in July, finding that “for dormant Commerce Clause purposes, laws that increase compliance costs, without more, do not constitute a significant burden on interstate commerce.” 

In June, the Supreme Court denied a similar petition filed by the North American Meat Institute challenging Prop 12.

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