Ninth Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Challenge to California Pork Raising Law

On Wednesday, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit challenging California’s Proposition 12, a law that requires whole pork meat sold within California to be produced by farms which allow a certain amount of room to their pigs, specifically breeding female pigs. The law also requires farmers of meat sold in the state to follow other California animal production standards for veal, pork, and eggs and is designed to decrease animal cruelty. 

The National Pork Producers Council and American Farm Bureau Federation challenged the law in the Southern District of California in December 2019 alleging that in a national market it would impose unnecessary burden on North Carolina and Midwest farmers who raise the majority of pigs sold throughout the United States and in California. The lawsuit was appealed to the Ninth Circuit by the plaintiffs in June, 2020 after the district court dismissed it. 

Animal rights organizations filed amicus briefs in the Ninth Circuit lawsuit supporting the law. Other organizations and 20 states filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs arguing that the law is unconstitutional under the commerce clause because one state’s law impacts interstate commerce. 

The Ninth Circuit ruled, along with the district court, that the plaintiffs failed to state a claim and “did not plausibly plead that Proposition 12 violates the dormant Commerce Clause by compelling out-of-state producers to change their operations to meet California standards.” Further, it determined that the plaintiffs did not show that the law would “impose excessive burdens on interstate commerce without advancing any legitimate local interest.” 

In the opinion, the judges explained that the law does not impact prices, either in or outside of California. “California’s promulgation of regulations to implement Proposition 12, which, as a practical matter, may result in the imposition of complex compliance requirements on out-of-state farmers, does not have an impermissible extraterritorial effect,” the opinion said. 

Under Ninth Circuit precedent, the filing explained, a state law challenge against out-of state-effects can only survive dismissal if it “directly regulates transactions that are conducted entirely out of state, substantially impedes the flow of interstate commerce, or interferes with a national regime.” Allegations from the plaintiffs that Proposition 12 would have significant impacts on pork producers in separate states and change the industry was not a sufficient violation, according to the court. 

The plaintiffs are represented by Mayer Brown and their own attorneys.