California wants to regulate the national pork industry at the expense of everyone else
by Zachary Faria, Commentary Fellow, Washington Examiner
November 17, 2021
Naturally, California liberals love to regulate things, even (or especially) if that means they are regulating the business of other states. Of course, that would be no different when it comes to the pork industry.
California voters predictably bought into environmentalist tales of animal cruelty in farming, voting overwhelmingly in favor of Proposition 12 in 2018, which bans the sale of chickens, veal calves, and pigs raised in conditions environmentalists don’t approve of. Because they think that animals think like humans, that means fewer fences and more space, which is a particular problem for pig farmers.
This means that, although agriculture-rich California actually has a near nonexistent presence in the pork industry, state bureaucrats will be inspecting farms across the country to ensure that their “animal welfare” standards are up to code with the Golden State’s rules. If not, they can’t be sold in California, which consumes roughly 15% of all pork produced in the United States.
The less disruptive result here would be that Californians cut themselves off from pork, thanks to their own gullibility. The other possibility is that farmers bend over backward to try and keep access to California, substantially raising their costs and, by extension, raising the price of pork across the country.
California environmentalists are no doubt pleased with those possibilities. Pricing more (usually poorer) people out of eating meat to combat climate change is a popular tenet of environmental activism right now. They couldn’t have asked for a better policy from a state that loves to try and force environmental standards on the rest of the country.
Hopefully, the National Pork Producers Council and American Farm Bureau Federation win...
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Can California Control the U.S. Pork Industry?
By Trevor Burrus, CATO Institute
Nov 15, 2021
In 2018, California voters approved Proposition 12, a far‐reaching law designed “to prevent animal cruelty by phasing out extreme methods of farm animal confinement.” The law requires that all pork, veal, and eggs sold in the state comply with new restrictions on how the animals can be confined. That means that pork producers in other states will have to comply with California law if they want to sell there.
In the wake of the law, many suits were filed by various agricultural entities arguing that California law was unconstitutionally crossing state borders and regulating interstate agricultural markets. This is especially true for the pork industry, which has very little presence in California—only about 0.2 percent of the country’s breeding sows are in the state. The pork industry is a highly integrated interstate market where a pig farmer in North Carolina might sell his stock to a meatpacker in Illinois, who then distributes to California. It’s very difficult to trace a given cut of meat back to its source and verify that the farmer complied with California law.
Because the Constitution gives Congress power over interstate commerce it is possible for state laws to encroach on Congress’s power and to regulate extra‐territorially. This is called the “dormant” Commerce Clause, and it has long been controversial and conceptually difficult. Nevertheless, the National Pork Producers Council is bringing that argument to the Supreme Court, which is being asked to take the case.
Cato has filed a brief in support of the National Pork Producers Council that tries to bring some clarity to the dormant Commerce Clause. Many state laws affect or burden activities in other states—especially for California due to the size of its economy—but every law that burdens interstate commerce is not unconstitutional. But, we argue, due to the interstate nature of the pork industry and the unique burdens of Prop 12, the Court should take a special look at this case.
Prop 12 will have California agricultural agents traveling around the country to ensure that farmers in other states comply with California law. It will raise the price of pork around the country, possibly significantly...
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