High court weighs California law on pigs, pork prices

Oct 10, 2022, 9:12 AM | Updated: Oct 12, 2022, 9:34 am
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals protest in front of the U.S. Supreme Court prior to att...

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals protest in front of the U.S. Supreme Court prior to attending arguments in National Pork Producers vs Ross, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is weighing a California animal cruelty law that pork producers say could upend their industry and raise the cost of their products nationwide.

But in arguments Tuesday, the justices seemed to have bigger concerns beyond bacon.

Pork producers say California’s law requiring more space for breeding pigs will force the $26 billion-a-year industry to change its practices even though pork is produced almost entirely outside California. The question for the high court is whether the nation’s most populous state has violated the U.S. Constitution with its law.

During more than two hours of arguments, both conservative and liberal justices asked about the fate of other state laws that impact other states.

“So what about a law that says you can’t sell fruit in our state if it’s produced — handled by people who are not in the country legally? Is that state law permissible?” asked Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

His colleague, Justice Elena Kagan, pointed to a law from the state where she grew up: “I understand New York has a law that says that if you want to import firewood into the state, you have to have used a certain kind of pesticide to make sure that various pests don’t come in with the firewood,” she said. “Would that be forbidden?”

And Justice Amy Coney Barrett asked whether California could pass a law barring pork from companies that “don’t require all their employees to be vaccinated or from companies that don’t fund gender-affirming surgery.”

Still, she also expressed concern about the impact if the court were to say California’s law is impermissible.

“How many other laws would fall, that it might affect?” she asked. Would the court call “into question a lot of laws that are pretty common?”

The case before the court involves California’s Proposition 12, which voters passed in 2018. It said that pork sold in the state needs to come from pigs whose mothers were raised with at least 24 square feet of space, including the ability to lie down and turn around. That rules out confined “gestation crates,” the metal enclosures that are common in the pork industry.

Two industry groups, the Iowa-based National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation, sued over the proposition. They say that while Californians consume 13% of the pork eaten in the United States, nearly 100% of it comes from hogs raised outside the state, primarily where the industry is concentrated in the Midwest and North Carolina. The vast majority of sows, meanwhile, aren’t raised under conditions that would meet Proposition 12’s standards.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson summed up the issue by saying: “To what extent does California get to control what Iowa does with respect to the housing of its pork?” She asked why California couldn’t do something less burdensome to the industry, like “segregating Iowa’s pork when it comes in, putting a big label over it that says ‘This is immorally produced.'”

The Biden administration has urged the justices to side with pork producers, telling the court in written filings that Proposition 12 would be a “wholesale change in how pork is raised and marketed in this country.” The administration says the proposition has “thrown a giant wrench into the workings of the interstate market in pork.”

Pork producers argue that 72% of farmers use individual pens for sows that don’t allow them to turn around and that even farmers who house sows in larger group pens don’t provide the space California would require.

They also say that the way the pork market works, with cuts of meat from various producers being combined before sale, it’s likely all pork would have to meet California standards, regardless of where it’s sold. Complying with Proposition 12 could cost the industry $290 million to $350 million, they say.

So far, lower courts have sided with California and animal-welfare groups that had supported the proposition, throwing out the pork producers’ case. But the law has yet to go into effect.

Several of the justices suggested the lower courts were too quick to reject the case. They suggested it should have gone forward with lower courts weighing the impact of California’s law and California’s interests in passing it.

Justice Kavanaugh suggested that would be “the easiest way to resolve this for now, and we can deal with a lot of these far-reaching arguments down the road.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - A Boeing 747-8, Boeing's new passenger plane, takes its first flight, Sunday, March 20, 2011...
Associated Press

Boeing’s last 747 to roll out of Washington state factory

After more than half a century, Boeing is set to roll its last 747 out of a Washington state factory on Tuesday.
16 hours ago
(AP Photo/Paula Bronstein, File)...
Associated Press

Inslee touts new housing program for Spokane’s homeless

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee was in Spokane Monday to preview the opening of a new housing project for homeless people, calling the Catalyst Project a step toward ending the state’s homelessness crisis.
16 hours ago
Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at a news conference about a jury's verdict against members...
Associated Press

Garland: Justice Dept.’s civil rights work is key priority

WASHINGTON (AP) — The early work of the Justice Department’s civil rights division meant confronting white supremacists who were intimidating Black voters, and 65 years later, its work is just as urgent amid a surge of hate crimes in the U.S., Attorney General Merrick Garland said Tuesday. “Now more than ever, protecting civil rights is […]
16 hours ago
Associated Press

Mississippi grain company’s ex-CEO indicted on fraud charges

GREENVILLE, Miss. (AP) — The former leader of a Mississippi grain storage and processing company has been indicted on federal and state charges, more than a year after the company filed for bankruptcy, prosecutors said Tuesday. John R. Coleman, 46, of Greenwood, Mississippi, is the former CEO of Express Grain Terminals, LLC. A federal grand […]
16 hours ago
FILE - In this photo released by the Saudi Royal Palace, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, ri...
Associated Press

US court dismisses suit against Saudi prince in killing

WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, bowing to the Biden administration’s insistence that the prince was legally immune in the case. District of Columbia U.S. District Judge John D. Bates heeded the U.S. government’s […]
16 hours ago
A burned-out warehouse is seen, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, in Baltimore. A man was found dead inside th...
Associated Press

Body of Baltimore fire victim went undiscovered for hours

BALTIMORE (AP) — Several hours after firefighters extinguished a warehouse fire in southwest Baltimore early Sunday, the scene was eerily quiet as Donte Craig stepped through the charred rubble, trying to remain hopeful. He was looking for his older brother James Craig Jr., who leased the warehouse for his demolition and hauling business. After hearing […]
16 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
High court weighs California law on pigs, pork prices