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Farm Animal Minimum Space Requirement Proposition is Held Up in Federal Court

U.S. District Judge rules against North American Meat Institute

By Evan Symon, November 26, 2019 7:10 pm

A federal judge in Los Angeles refused to stop California from enforcing a voter-approved measure requiring farmers to provide more space for animals being raised for food.

Proposition 12 and what it does

Passed by California voters in 2018 63% to 37% in a strict urban-rural county split, Proposition 12 sets minimum space requirements for farm animals such as cattle, pigs, and chickens. Under the proposition, chickens will also be cage free. Prop 12 was widely seen as a second step to Proposition 2, a 2008 proposition that set chicken cage space minimums that was later applied to states importing poultry and poultry products into California.

And like Prop 2, Prop 12 includes language that, if producers or companies don’t comply, they will face a sales ban in the entire state of California.

NAMI and the fight against Prop 12

Senior United States District Judge Christina Snyder. (Youtube)

The North American Meat Institute (NAMI), who represents chicken related companies such as Tyson and food stores such as Whole Foods, Wal-Mart, and Target, brought the state to court. NAMI argued that having new space requirement laws would hurt and discriminate against many farmers who may not be able to afford adequate accommodations. The Institute also argued the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, saying that  it would be unconstitutional to force out-of-state companies to follow Prop 12.

But late last week U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder ruled in favor of California in North American Meat Institute v. Becerra. Judge Snyder found that Prop. 12 would be applied evenly across the state and that it posed no risk to unfair interstate commerce. This effectively ended the request by NAMI for a preliminary injunction against Prop. 12.

Approval of the ruling from some, vows of appeal from others

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

The state, as well as those for the proposition, applauded the judges decision.

“This a victory for ensuring that the food we consumes comes from animals who are cared for as humanely as possible under the law,” noted California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

NAMI, as well as many farmers across the state, left disappointed with the decision.

“We respect but are disappointed in the court’s decision,” stated NAMI Vice President of Communications Sarah Little. “We will review the ruling and consider our options, which include an appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.”

The possible high costs and higher stakes of Prop 12 being implemented

With appeals being likely in the near future, and Prop 12 being slowly implemented, farmers in California are facing the clock.

“Right now farmers have options,” explained Olivia Burley, a farmer in Fresno County. “Many of us, especially the more financially stable farms, already comply with Proposition 12. We care about these animals, so of course most of us already did it. Not being cruel to animals is one of the few things us and animal rights people both agree on believe it or not.

But for some farmers it is a huge burden. For some bigger farms where they haven’t kept up, building new buildings or expanding old ones to allow for more space can cost thousands. Tens of thousands. Hundreds of thousands.

Other places may have to scale back, and then there are others who may leave California entirely because they can’t afford it. If Prop 12 continues to be rolled out slowly, it gives most farmers enough time to figure things out. If it’s stopped, nothing happens.

But what worries us is that this will bring renewed focus on it and somebody may try and make the changes effective by a certain date and send inspectors out. And many of us are worried we might need to raise prices on things like chicken to pay for these new upgrades. Chicken is relatively cheap for people in California. Can you imagine if it became a more expensive option?

You better believe that we’re all watching for the appeal.”

Proposition 12 is currently being implemented again pending an appeal on Judge Snyder’s ruling.

Evan Symon

Evan V. Symon is the Senior Editor for the California Globe. Prior to the Globe, he reported for the Pasadena Independent, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and was head of the Personal Experiences section at Cracked. He can be reached at evan@californiaglobe.com.
Evan Symon
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