California can’t enforce Proposition 12 against food retailers unless it issues overdue regulations that ensure they only sell pork from farms that comply the animal-welfare laws, a Superior Court judge said Tuesday. Although the ruling was cheered by the meat industry, state officials stated that pork producers and suppliers still have to comply with Prop 12, which went into effect January 1.
Approved by a landslide margin by voters in 2018, Prop 12 requires hog farmers to provide at least 24 square feet of floor space for breeding sows — far more room than is common. It also bans the sale of pork that is produced on farms that do not meet this standard, whether they are in California or elsewhere. California imports the majority of the pork it sells from other states.
The meat industry and farm groups claim Prop 12 is an unacceptable burden on them operations and hope that the Supreme Court will declare it unconstitutional interference in interstate commerce. The Court justices declined to consider a challenge against Prop 12 last June and have yet to decide if they will hear a new challenge. “The laws of one state should not set the rules for an entire nation,” said the American Farm Bureau Federation, one of the groups seeking Supreme Court review.
Superior Court Judge James Arguelles, based in the state capital of Sacramento, delayed enforcement of Prop 12 against grocers and retailers until six months after the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) puts its final version of Prop 12 regulations into effect. They were supposed to be published by September 19, 2019, but they are still being drafted.
A coalition of business owners, trade associations for grocers, retailers, and a meat processing firm argued that Prop 12 should not be applied to them until regulations establish a system to verify the origin of pork in commerce. Violations of Prop 12 are a misdemeanor that can be punished by a fine up to $1,000 or up to six months imprisonment, or both.
Although the coalition asked for a 28-month delay in enforcement, Arguelles chose six months and cited voters’ concerns, in passing Prop 12, “about cruel confinement” of livestock. “The delay must not exceed a period that is necessary,” he said. “The court’s writ will remain in effect until 180 days after final regulations go into effect. After the final regulations are enacted, the parties may return to this court for any appropriate adjustment to the date.”
The CDFA said the ruling “is a narrow one that applies only to retailers, including grocers, and not to pork producers providing pork products to California. Pork producers and suppliers remain subject to enforcement if they violate the square-footage requirement that went into effect on Jan. 1.”
In a statement, the CDFA said it “continues its work to develop implementing regulations for Proposition 12, moving as quickly as possible while ensuring full consideration is given to extensive comments submitted by stakeholders during a recent comment period.”
Farm groups have been fighting Prop 12 and its predecessor in 2008 in court for years, but without success. They requested a delay in Prop 12 implementation because the final regulations were still under development. The CDFA stated that the law had set the implementation date and could not be altered.
Source: Successful Farming