Pork Producers Appeal to Ninth Circuit

Following Defeat in District Court, Ag Group Files Federal Appeal

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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The National Pork Producers Council filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, after having a challenge to California Proposition 12 dismissed. (DTN file photo)

OMAHA (DTN) -- Two agriculture groups appealed to a federal appeals court this week, after a district court in California dismissed their legal challenge to the state's Proposition 12, which involves production standards for pork.

The National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation had their case dismissed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California in April. The groups asked the court to decide whether the state can enforce Proposition 12 against farmers in other states.

The law requires hog producers to abide by certain regulations in order to sell pork in California. Voters in the state passed the proposition in 2018 with nearly 63% of votes supporting it.

As of Jan. 1, 2022, Proposition 12 prohibits the sale of pork not produced according to California's production standards. Proposition 12 applies to any uncooked pork sold in the state, regardless of whether it was raised in California.

The National Pork Producers Council filed an appeal on Thursday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco. NPPC has until Aug. 24 to file its opening brief in the case, according to court documents.

In the original lawsuit filed on Dec. 6, 2019, the agriculture groups asked the court to declare the law unconstitutional in violation of the commerce clause.

The law forbids the sale of whole pork meat in California from hogs born of sows not housed in conformity with the law. Proposition 12 forbids sows from being confined in such a way that they cannot lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs, or turn around without touching the sides of their stalls or other animals.

In its April ruling, the district court rejected the plaintiffs' allegation the state is regulating commerce in other states.

"Proposition 12 precludes the sale within California of products produced by hogs not raised in conformity with the requirements of Proposition 12, regardless of where the hogs are raised," the court said. "It therefore does not regulate wholly out-of-state conduct.

"Further, California may seek to influence which hog products are sold in-state and create incentives for less harmful farming practices."

The original lawsuit opposing Proposition 12 was backed by attorneys general who filed a brief in the district court. Those states include Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and West Virginia

According to the National Pork Producers Council, less than 1% of pork produced in the United States meets Proposition 12 requirements.

The state needs about 700,000 sows to satisfy its pork demand. About 1,500 out of California's 8,000 sows are used in commercial breeding housed in small farms. The NPPC has argued because the state has to import most of its sows, Proposition 12 essentially regulates farmers beyond state borders.

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

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Todd Neeley