The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to hear a farm-group challenge that says California's animal welfare rules pose an unconstitutional burden on farmers and consumers throughout the nation. Approved by voters in a landslide in 2018, Proposition 12 requires California farmers to give more room to sows and egg-laying hens, and bars the sale of meat produced on farms outside the state that do not match California's standards.
California cannot enforce Proposition 12 against food retailers until it issues overdue regulations to assure they sell pork only from farms that comply with the animal-welfare law, said a Superior Court judge on Tuesday. The meat industry cheered the ruling, but state officials said pork producers and suppliers are still obliged to obey Prop 12, which took effect on Jan. 1.
Some hog farmers plan to expand their operations with Proposition 12 in effect, said California agriculture officials in the "Planting Seeds" blog as the voter-approved law took effect over the weekend. "Additionally, we believe there is sufficient product already in the supply chain to carry through for a number of months."
More than three years ago, California voters approved Proposition 12, guaranteeing sows, veal calves and egg-laying hens more room to move about and barring the sale of eggs, veal and pork from farms, even in other states, that do not comply with the new standards. The law went into effect on Sunday, although state officials were still working on a final set of regulations.(No paywall)
On Wednesday, two days after state legislators rewrote a voter-approved animal welfare law, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed the bill into law, averting a possible shortage of eggs and pork. The new law revamps housing standards for egg-laying hens and delays until Aug. 15 a prohibition on the sale of pork products from farms that do not give pigs enough room to lie down, stand up, fully extend their legs or turn around freely.
After years of fighting California's voter-approved Proposition 12 in court, meatpackers and the pork industry are asking for more time to comply with its animal welfare requirements. Estimates of the impact on consumers when Prop 12 takes effect on Jan. 1 vary widely, from increased pork costs of $10 per person annually to a warning by a hog-state senator that bacon could cost $17 a pound next year.