Senators urge solicitor general to support Proposition 12

A group of U.S. senators has sent a letter to the solicitor general asking her to support California's animal welfare law before the Supreme Court.

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US Supreme Court to hear case over California animal welfare law

A group of senators has sent a letter to Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar urging her to support California’s Proposition 12 before the Supreme Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court in March agreed to hear a case brought by the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) against California’s Proposition 12, which bans the sale of pork from hogs that don’t meet certain production standards.

The high court is taking up the case on appeal from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which in July 2021 upheld a lower court ruling against the NPPC-AFBF lawsuit. The appeals court found that despite the organizations plausibly alleging that Prop 12 “will have dramatic upstream effects and require pervasive changes to the pork industry nationwide,” 9th Circuit precedent didn’t allow the case to continue. That precedent, however, runs counter to numerous Supreme Court decisions and is in conflict with nearly every other federal circuit court, NPPC has said.

“We believe that the previous administration’s position on Proposition 12 was based on a misconception of the law,” the letter says. “As is stated in the ballot measure text itself, the purpose of California’s Proposition 12 was not only to improve animal welfare, but to ‘phase out extreme methods of farm animal confinement, which also threaten the health and safety of California consumers and increase the risk of foodborne illness and associated negative fiscal impacts on the State of California.’ Notably, although the basis for Proposition 12 is scientifically validated, existing case law (Maine v. Taylor, 477 U.S. 131, 148; 1986) also empowers states to address risks even though they ‘may ultimately prove to be negligible.’”

AFBF and NPPC claim Prop 12 violates the Commerce Clause, which grants Congress the power to regulate trade among the states and restricts states from regulating commerce outside their borders, except for matters related to public health and safety.

But, the letter says, “Proposition 12 only regulates in-state sales of egg, pork, and veal products and does not regulate out-of-state producers, but the NPPC’s argument claims a state law is unconstitutional any time it could indirectly cause businesses to adjust out-of-state operations. If adopted, this ruling could allow large, multi-state corporations to evade numerous state laws that focus on harms to their constituents, including those addressing wildlife trafficking, climate change, renewable energy, stolen property trafficking and labor abuses.”

The letter was signed by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).

NPPC has not responded to Feed Strategy’s request for comment.

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