Leaders of the National Pork Producers Council expressed disappointment Friday with the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision rejecting their arguments that California’s animal housing law unconstitutionally regulates the way hog farmers handle sows.
“We know we're the experts in raising pigs, and now we may have to raise pigs in a way that is dictated by some folks who really don't know much about it,” said Scott Hays, a Missouri hog farmer and president of NPPC, in a call with reporters Friday afternoon. “And so, it's a challenge for us.”
In response to a question about possible legislation to address Prop 12, NPPC CEO Bryan Humphreys said all options are on the table.
“There are a number of conversations going on,” he said. “And we received comments from members of Congress who are just as frustrated by this ruling as we are. And so at this point, we haven't ruled anything out.”
NPPC's chief legal strategist, Michael Formica, said the organization is in discussions with officials in California and Massachusetts. Proposition 12 in California bans the sales of pork from the offspring of sows unless they have 24 square feet during pregnancy.
Massachusetts has a similar law, but both were stayed by the courts until resolution of the Supreme Court case – California’s until July 1, and Massachusetts’ until 30 days after the Supreme Court decision.
“There's a number of questions and we're in active discussions and communication with California trying to work through this, trying to get clarity so we minimal disruptions to the marketplace,” Formica said. “Our concern is with the farmers are concerned also with consumers in California and making sure that they and their families continue to have a supply of pork.”
As for Massachusetts, “We have reached out … and are beginning to work with them on implementation,” Formica said.
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Formica said that what is “most disappointing” about the court’s decision “is that a majority of the Supreme Court agreed with us that Prop 12 is causing or will cause significant harm to interstate commerce, especially to the U.S. pork industry.”
Five justices – Chief Justice John Roberts, along with Justices Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, Ketanji Brown Jackson and Amy Coney Barrett – “all agreed that what we have described happening to the pork industry is in fact indicative of substantial harm to interstate commerce.”
But Barrett decided that balancing states’ competing moral concerns “is not something a judge is equipped to handle,” he said. Instead, this type of issue is the province of legislators.
Animal welfare groups hailed the decision as a huge win. The Humane Society of the U.S. said, "While the lengthy opinion contains several concurrences and dissents, the court unanimously rejected the pork industry’s primary claim: that Proposition 12’s ban on the sale of pork from cruelly confined animals is unconstitutional merely because it may have indirect so-called 'extraterritorial' effects on out-of-state pork producers."
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