Attorney General Curtis Hill on Monday filed an amicus brief in a federal district court supporting a lawsuit by the North American Meat Institute against the State of California, whose voters last year enacted a statute purporting to impose agricultural regulations on Indiana and every other U.S. state. Eight other states signed onto Indiana’s brief.
California’s Proposition 12 contains two operative provisions. The first provision exercises California’s authority over farming in the state by regulating the manner in which California’s own farmers may confine three types of livestock: 1) calves raised for veal, 2) breeding pigs and 3) egg-laying hens. A second provision, however, unconstitutionally purports to extend California’s animal-confinement regulations to every farmer in the United States. It prohibits the sale in California of any veal, pork or eggs produced from animals not raised in accordance with the state’s animal-confinement regulations, regardless of where those animals were raised.
In Indiana’s amicus brief, Attorney General Hill explains that the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause prohibits California’s attempt to usurp other states’ authority to adopt their own animal-husbandry policies.
“States have a sovereign interest in preserving their authority to set policy for their own farmers,” Attorney General Hill said. “This case involves a concept known as horizontal federalism. Under the Constitution, states must respect one another’s sovereign prerogatives.”
Further, he said, the Commerce Clause grants to Congress the sole authority to regulate interstate commerce.
Attorney General Hill noted that the California law has nothing to do with protecting the state’s consumers. “Obviously, every state has the right to regulate products based on such factors as consumer health and safety,” he said. “That’s different from erecting barriers to interstate trade based on value judgments about whether other states are appropriately looking out for animal welfare.”
In its lawsuit, the North American Meat Institute asks the federal district court to enjoin California’s sales ban. Writing in support of the institute, Attorney General Hill noted that Indiana is the fifth largest pork producer in the United States.
“As it stands, Proposition 12 requires farmers in other states either to overhaul their production practices or lose access to California’s huge market,” he said. “But California has no constitutional authority to foist that dilemma upon farmers outside its own state boundaries. The North American Meat Institute should prevail in this case.”