High court weighs California law on pigs, pork prices

Oct 10, 2022, 9:12 PM | Updated: Oct 12, 2022, 9:48 am

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

A migrant from Michoacan, Mexico, uses the CBPOne app Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023, in Tijuana, Mexico. A...
Associated Press

Online system to seek asylum in US is quickly overwhelmed

TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) — Hours before sunrise, migrants at one of Mexico’s largest shelters wake up and go online, hoping to secure an appointment to try to seek asylum in the U.S. The daily ritual resembles a race for concert tickets when online sales begin for a major act, as about 100 people glide their […]
7 hours ago
Associated Press

Challenge for Tunisian democracy: Getting voters to show up

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisia was once the Arab world’s hope for a new era of democracy. Now it’s in the midst of an election that’s more of an embarrassment than a model. Barely 11% of voters turned out in the first round of parliamentary elections last month, boycotted by opposition Islamists and ignored by […]
7 hours ago
Associated Press

Philippines probes labor abuses in Kuwait after new killing

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine government said Saturday it will take steps to assess and prevent abuses including rape and maltreatment of Filipino workers in Kuwait, after a housemaid was killed and dumped in a desert in the oil-rich emirate. The remains of Jullebee Ranara were flown home Friday night from Kuwait, where the […]
7 hours ago
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni departs Algiers after a two day official visit in Algeria, Mo...
Associated Press

Italy, Libya sign $8B gas deal as PM Meloni visits Tripoli

CAIRO (AP) — Italy’s prime minister held talks in Libya on Saturday with officials from the country’s west-based government focusing on energy and migration, top issues for Italy and the European Union. During the visit, the two countries’ oil companies signed a gas deal worth $8 billion — the largest single investment in Libya’s energy […]
7 hours ago
FILE  - A view of a Flybe flight departing from Manchester Airport, Manchester, England, Jan. 13, 2...
Associated Press

Flights canceled as UK airline Flybe sinks into bankruptcy

LONDON (AP) — Struggling U.K. regional airline Flybe collapsed for the second time in three years Saturday, putting jobs on the line and leaving passengers stranded. The airline initially slumped into bankruptcy in March 2020, shedding 2,400 jobs, as coronavirus restrictions decimated the travel industry. It relaunched in April last year, flying many of the […]
7 hours ago
CORRECTS THE PHOTOGRAPHER'S NAME TO KWIYEON HA - Staff of Kyodo Senpaku Co. holds canned whale meat...
Associated Press

Japan firm opens whale meat vending machines to push sales

YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) — A Japanese whaling operator, after struggling for years to promote its products amid protests from conservationists, has found a new way to cultivate clientele and bolster sales: whale meat vending machines. The Kujira (Whale) Store, an unmanned outlet that recently opened in the port town of Yokohama near Tokyo, houses three […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
High court weighs California law on pigs, pork prices