U.S. Supreme Court

U.S. Supreme Court

Twenty states have filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting a petition filed by the North American Meat Institute challenging the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 12.

The Farm Animal Confinement Initiative bans the sale of pork and veal products sold into California unless out-of-state producers restructure their facilities to meet animal-confinement standards dictated by California.

In February, the Meat Institute asked the Supreme Court to review an earlier ruling of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the Meat Institute’s challenge.

That court’s decision permits California to regulate commercial conduct beyond its borders so long as it does not take the form of a price-control or price-affirmation law. The court’s decision departs from the decisions of five other federal circuit courts that have invalidated similar laws to regulate out-of-state conduct, according to the states’ amicus brief.

The 9th Circuit’s decision threatens to impede interstate commerce and aggravate divisions among states. It also upends the fundamental principle of equal state sovereignty by adopting a far less restrictive rule than other circuits, the states said in their brief.

“It means some states are free to impose their policies on out-of-state actors while other states are prohibited from doing so,” they stated.

“The Constitution permits California to serve as a laboratory of state policy experimentation with its animal confinement laws but only within its own borders. … The Constitution prohibits California from applying its animal-confinement laws to conduct in other states,” they said.

The brief was filed by Indiana, joined by Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.

“The governments of nearly half the states agree if California is allowed to apply its laws to conduct in other states, a single state will dictate policies in all others, encouraging a patchwork of regulations and threatening the free flow of interstate commerce,” Julie Anna Potts, Meat Institute president and CEO, said in a press release.

The Meat Institute opposes the law because it is unconstitutional and will hurt the nation’s food value chain by significantly increasing costs for producers and consumers.

In its petition, the Meat Institute urged the Supreme Court to grant review because the “9th Circuit’s decision conflicts with the decisions of other federal courts of appeals on the question whether the Constitution limits a state’s ability to extend its police power beyond its territorial borders through a trade barrier dictating production standards in other states and countries.”

Allowing Prop 12 to stand “insulates in-state farmers from out-of-state competition, while imposing crushing burdens on out-of-state farmers and producers who have no political voice to shape the regulations that California has unilaterally determined to foist upon their operations outside of California,” the Meat Institute said in the petition.

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