The Superior Court for Sacramento County in California has ruled to halt enforcement of the state’s Proposition 12, known as the Prevention of Cruelty to Farm Animals Act, which aims to establish minimum requirements for confining certain farm animals and prohibits sales of meat products from animals confined in noncomplying manner.
In his ruling, Judge James Arguelles said that Proposition 12 should be delayed for 180 days after the final rules go into effect, which was scheduled for January 1, 2022. The judge refused to grant the 28 months delay that petitioners were looking for. “The court must be mindful of the Act’s concern about cruel confinements, and the enforcement delay must not exceed a period that is necessary,” Arguelles said in his ruling.
The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) is among several organizations in the meat industry that praised the ruling, noting that the California Department of Food and Agriculture is more than two years late in finalizing what the organization calls complicated and costly regulations. “Judge Arguelles’ decision recognizes the complexity of the pork supply chain and the burdensome and costly provisions of Prop 12,” says Julie Anna Potts, president and CEO of NAMI. “To enforce the law without final regulations leaves the industry unsure of how to comply or what significant changes must be made to provide pork to this critical market.”
In addition to the implementation, the state’s Supreme Court is still reviewing a petition from The National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation regarding the constitutionality of law. Historically, states regulate farms in their own states, and California is attempting to control farms across every other state, which is unprecedented, says Travis Cushman, senior counsel for public policy for the American Farm Bureau.
Because the regulations aren’t yet clear, the delay was expected. “The time was needed because people don’t know how to comply,” says Cushman. “We know the contours of what it should be, but there is no clarity of what exactly is expected.”
“Should the courts fail to halt Prop 12, the state of California needs to promulgate final rules so the industry knows how to comply,” a spokesperson for NAMI tells Food Quality & Safety. “The changes Prop 12 requires are burdensome and costly. Pork producers need to know the rules to plan their operations and make the changes required or they face criminal penalties and possible civil litigation.”