Venable Filed Amicus Brief on Behalf of Perdue Premium Meat Co. in Support of California Proposition 12; Supreme Court Ruled in Favor of Proposition 12, Citing Perdue Premium Meat Co.’s Amicus Brief

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On May 11, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a challenge to California's Proposition 12, a statewide ban that outlaws the sale of pork from pigs housed in cages or crowded group pens in less than 24-square-feet that prevent them from turning around freely. By a 5-4 vote, this ruling, written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, protects the authority of states to enact laws to protect the health and welfare of the public even if the measures have impacts out of state. The high court's decision affirms rulings of two lower courts that found the out-of-state pork producers had failed to state a valid claim against California as a matter of law. It cited Perdue Premium Meat Co.'s brief to support the proposition that humane treatment of pigs already occurs.

Californians approved Proposition 12 in 2018 with nearly 63% of the vote. Voters were told the measure, which is not in effect, would most likely increase the price of pork but provide for more humane living conditions for pigs and potentially reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses. The National Pork Producers Council, which represents the pork industry, and the American Farm Bureau Federation, which represents farming interests, sued in 2019 (National Pork Producers Council v. Ross), saying the measure violates a provision of the Constitution called the commerce clause, which has been interpreted to bar states from interfering with interstate commerce. The groups also said that Proposition 12 will impose heavy compliance cost to farmers across the U.S. and "will transform the pork industry nationwide" because currently nearly all farmers keep sows in pens that do not comply with the law.

That view was contested by California and its allies, including meat producer Perdue Premium Meat Co., which filed an amicus brief in a related case in Iowa in 2019 supporting California and discussing how its Niman Ranch brand has for years been raising hogs that would have been in compliance with Proposition 12's requirements. The recent amicus brief submitted to the Supreme Court in 2022 offered an alternative industry voice to demonstrate that compliance is straightforward and economically feasible, and that certain industry leaders have already implemented and satisfied compliance requirements. In addition, Perdue Premium Meat Co. said that producers can and will adjust to the demands of the California market and raise hogs humanely without sacrificing their ability to earn profits. Justice Gorsuch cited Perdue Premium Meat Co.'s amicus brief as evidence that Proposition 12 could be implemented without dire effects.

Perdue Premium Meat Co. was represented by Venable attorneys Mitch Mirviss and Roger Colaizzi.